Stony Brook Medicine Health News
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Are Suicidal Thoughts Common?

Suicide is occurring at an alarming rate in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2022, the U.S. had the highest number of suicide deaths ever recorded. Among American adults under the age of 45, suicide is the second leading cause of death.

While it’s normal to experience mood shifts and bouts of sadness, thoughts of self-harm should be a red flag. There are multiple warning signs of suicide that, when noticed and acted upon, can save a life.

Below, common questions about suicide are answered by Chief Nursing Officer at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, Suzie Marriott, and Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Stony Brook Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program, Dr. Brittain Mahaffey.

What Triggers Thoughts of Suicide?

Suzie Marriott: Sadly, many of us, in fact, over 12 million Americans, have had thoughts of taking our lives. What’s more, 3.5 million made a plan and 1.7 million took some action toward ending their lives.

Some contributing factors of suicidal thoughts include:

  • Financial stress or job loss
  • Loss of a loved one (particularly in last two years)
  • Legal problems or a previous criminal record
  • Being a victim of abuse
  • Relationship problems
  • Depression, anxiety or other emotional problems
  • History of self-harm and/or previous suicide attempts
  • Exposure to suicidal behaviors
  • Feelings of isolation

    Who is Most at Risk of Suicidal Thoughts?

    Dr. Mahaffey: Some people are more impacted than others by suicide. These include:

    • American Indian and Alaska Native people
    • Black, Hispanic, and Asian and Pacific Islanders
    • Adolescents and young adults
    • Adults over the age of 75
    • Males (rates are 4x higher than for women)
    • People who live in rural areas
    • Veterans and other military personnel
    • People in construction, the arts, design, entertainment, sports and media fields
    • LGBTQ+ youth
    • Those diagnosed with major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use and eating disorders.

    Are There Warning Signs of Suicide?

    Suzie Marriott: Yes. Sadly, 50% of those who die by suicide do so after their first and only attempt. The CDC has identified 12 warning signs of suicide:

    1. Feeling like a burden
    2. Being isolated
    3. Increased anxiety
    4. Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
    5. Increased substance use
    6. Talking or posting about wanting to die
    7. Making plans for suicide
    8. Looking for a way to access lethal means
    9. Increased anger or rage
    10. Extreme mood swings
    11. Expressing hopelessness
    12. Sleeping too little or too much

    What Can I Do To Help Someone Struggling?

    Suzie Marriott: If you notice any warning signs in someone you know, you should do the following:

    1. Ask clearly and directly about suicide.
    2. Keep them safe.
    3. Be physically present if possible or show support by listening on the phone.
    4. Don’t leave them alone.
    5. If you think they might quickly act upon their suicidal thoughts, help them call or text 988. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7 access to trained counselors who can help. Or bring them to the nearest ER.
    6. Follow up after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems. This will help them build self-worth and feel valued.

    For further information about ways you can help, visit

    What is Stony Brook’s Approach to Suicide Prevention?

    Dr. Mahaffey: Our team of experts know how to put someone at ease to open up, while being supportive and respectful. We can diagnose and treat underlying depression, anxiety or other emotional problems in person, or from the comfort and privacy of a person’s home, via telehealth. 

    For those people diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, who have tried countless treatments and still feel like life is crushing down on them, we offer Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). This science-backed therapy takes a wholistic approach to helping people develop a life that’s less painful and really worth living.

    It focuses on finding balance and getting unstuck from extremes by learning emotional life skills. It also focuses on making sustainable changes in your daily life, so you can move forward in a healthy way and enjoy life.

    For more information about our Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) services, call: (631) 632-8657 or visit:

    This article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature. Always consult your healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance and treatment.