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Kindness and Suicide Prevention

Kindness Matters to Your Health

Kindness toward others has become more prevalent worldwide since the pandemic. Whether it’s the simple gestures of a smile and greeting offered to strangers as we continue our journey back into modified versions of our pre-pandemic lives or a renewed, genuine interest in helping those in need, kindness toward others spreads more than good cheer.

We understand all kindness is known to instill hope and positivity within the lives of its recipients; however, these positive acts also play an integral role in the lives of those who willingly share them.

Kindness is positive for all, from those who live within our neighborhoods and communities to our society and world. Kindness and empathy toward others not only help those to whom we reach out, but also give those who initiate kind actions toward others positive feelings and sense of well-being. Kindness can also lead those who help others to experience better physical and mental health. In short, kindness is a win-win for everyone, especially as we continue to put the pandemic’s lingering effects on our mental and physical health and well-being behind us.

During the pandemic, anxiety and depression rates tripled. In the U.S., High rates of social isolation indicated greater anxiety and depression, particularly among young people. A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) survey indicated 75% of young people ages 18 through 24 years indicated struggle with mental health or drug issue during 2020. Unintentional injury deaths rose in 2020, largely due to unintentional drug overdose. The CDC also reports 1 out of 4 young people contemplated suicide within the last 30 days. In some areas of the U.S., suicide rates increased by 67% in kids 12 through 17 years in 2020. Today, suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

Other U.S. groups adversely impacted by mental health decline include women and those with low income. With the rise of virtual healthcare due to pandemic safety precautions, it’s estimated 50% of these appointments solely addressed mental health concerns.

September 6 – 12 is National Suicide Prevention Week with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10.  Your local Capital Women’s Care team shares important information on suicide prevention and the scientifically proven positive effects kindness has on the health and well-being of those who reach out and share kindness with others.

Suicide and Its Risk Factors

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. It was responsible for nearly 45,000 deaths in 2016, with approximately one death every 12 minutes. Many more people think about or attempt suicide and survive. In 2016, 9.8 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 2.8 million initiated a suicide plan, and 1.3 million attempted suicide.

Suicide doesn’t discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. Suicide is a problem throughout the life span. It is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 34 years of age, the fourth leading cause among people 35 to 54 years of age, and the eighth leading cause among people 55 to 64 years of age.

Suicidal behavior is complex, and there’s no single cause. Many different factors contribute to someone making a suicide attempt; however, people most at risk tend to share specific characteristics. The main risk factors for suicide include:

  • depression, other mental disorders, or substance abuse disorder
  • certain medical conditions
  • chronic pain
  • having a prior suicide attempt
  • family history of a mental disorder or substance abuse
  • family history of suicide
  • family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
  • having guns or other firearms in the home
  • having recently been released from prison or jail
  • or being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities.

Suicide Prevention

Knowing the warning signs for suicide and how to get help can help save lives. These behaviors may be signs that someone is contemplating suicide:

  • talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
  • talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
  • making plans or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching for lethal methods online, stockpiling pills, or buying a gun
  • talking about great guilt or shame
  • talking about feeling trapped or feeling there are no solutions
  • feeling unbearable pain (emotional pain or physical pain)
  • talking about being a burden to others
  • using alcohol or drugs more often
  • acting anxious or agitated
  • withdrawing from family and friends
  • changing eating and/or sleeping habits
  • showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast
  • talking or thinking about death often
  • displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
  • giving away important possessions
  • saying goodbye to friends and family
  • putting affairs in order, making a will

If these warning signs apply to you or to someone you know, get help as soon as possible, particularly if the behavior is new or has increased recently.

5 Steps to Help Someone Contemplating Suicide

There are 5 steps you can take to reach out and help someone contemplating suicide:

  • ASK: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It’s not an easy question, but studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal doesn’t increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  • KEEP THEM SAFE: Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention. While this isn’t always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan and removing or disabling the lethal means can make a difference.
  • BE THERE: Listen carefully and learn what the person is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
  • HELP THEM CONNECT: Save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s (1-800-273-TALK (8255)) and the Crisis Text Line’s number (741741) in your phone, so it’s there when you need it. You can also help make a connection with a trusted individual like a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
  • STAY CONNECTED: Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with an at-risk person.

Maintaining genuine, continued kindness can help those with suicidal tendencies to understand they shouldn’t be ashamed and lead to initiating professional help.

Health Benefits of Kindness

Research has proven time and again kindness offers several important health benefits. Kindness has correlations with enhanced mental, emotional and physical well-being in those who demonstrate it to others.

Through the 1990s, the late Dr. Masaru Emoto performed a series of experiments examining the natural effects of words, prayers, music and environment on water’s crystalline structure. Emoto noted when kind and loving words were conveyed to the water, they formed a complete crystal structure compared to energies involving hate and anger. As the human body is 70% comprised of water, Emoto’s studies indicate kindness has a definitive impact on our immediate health:

Kindness is good for your body. Demonstrating kindness toward others has been shown to:

  • slow the aging process. Doing kind deeds can decrease blood pressure and cortisol, a hormone directly impacting stress levels, leading to improving overall health. Kindness protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease.
  • incite feelings of being stronger and having more energy.
  • increase connectivity with others, which can directly impact loneliness, improve low mood and enhance relationships.
  • be contagious as those witnessing kind acts develop good feelings so they in turn want to help others, also known as “paying it forward.”
  • according to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were recipient of the good deed, not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high.”
  • lessen aches and pains within your body.
  • and help you live a longer life. People 55+ years who volunteer for 2 or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early.

Kindness may help alleviate certain illnesses. Inflammation within the body is a known link to numerous health problems, including chronic pain, diabetes, obesity and migraines.

For older generations, volunteering as an act of kindness may help reduce inflammation. According to a study of older adults aged 57 to 85 years, volunteering manifested the strongest association with lower inflammation levels.

Kindness is good for your mind. Scientists have found kindness positively changes your brain physiologically. Being kind to others:

  • boosts production of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine within our brains that generate states of satisfaction and well-being, causes pleasure/reward centers to light up initiating a “helper’s high,” to increase levels of happiness and helps us form social bonds and trust with others.
  • releases endorphins, your body’s natural pain killer.
  • increases levels of positive emotions and psychological flourishing of those exhibiting kindness to others.
  • increases self-esteem, empathy, optimism and compassion.
  • improves mood and focus.
  • lessens anxiety and stress.

Additionally, noting feelings of thankfulness can help improve sleep, diminish fatigue, increase confidence and even lessen depression. One way to increase your feelings of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Writing down things you’re grateful for has been found to improve biological markers indicating heart health.

Kindness gets easier with practice. To encourage the continuation of positive effects kindness has on your health and mind, researchers state kindness must be consciously and continually practiced. Think of ways to practice kindness a few times a day to keep up its positive benefits on your health.  Whether in the form of volunteer work, dropping coins into an expired parking meter, bringing a snack to share with your officemates, or holding the elevator for someone, random acts of kindness practiced daily boost your health while causing a ripple effect of continued kindness practices.

Your Capital Women’s Care team is here should you have any questions or concerns about all aspects of your physical and mental health, as well as any women’s health issue. Our compassionate, professional family of doctors, nurses and support staff provide expert, comprehensive healthcare so you may achieve and enjoy optimal physical and mental health throughout your life.

If you or someone you love is considering suicide, get help now — call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255). If it’s an emergency for you or for another person call 911 immediately. If you’re in a non-emergency situation and looking for information, referrals, or support for a loved one, call the NAMI Help Line at 800-950-NAMI (6264).