A history of one or more suicide attempts is the strongest predictor for future suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and completed suicide. Almost two thirds of those who die by suicide had a previous attempt which makes it a serious risk factor.
Charles had a previous attempt that I didn’t know to classify as one. He had told me that he took a bunch of pills and didn’t know why he did it and he was both surprised and glad he woke up the next morning.
Was that a suicide attempt? It was.
I asked mental health professionals about it to try and define it but the question stayed suspended in the air in solitude like one of those tennis shoes dangling on a telephone wire. At the time I thought we had dodged a serious attempt. He swore he’d never do it again and was very remorseful.
No one offered me any education on the subject despite my asking and it would be a long time before I would understand that’s not how suicidal ideation works with those suffering from depression. (Not that everyone with depression has suicidal ideation or that all people who die by suicide suffer from depression.)
Since 90% of parents are unaware their child has had a suicide attempt I co-present with NIMH scientist Lisa Horowitz PhD and advocate for the implementation of the ASQ, a 4-question screening tool for 10-24 year olds for use in emergency rooms and pediatric/family practice.
Take all suicide threats and attempts seriously.