September is Suicide Awareness Month

     Intimate Partner Violence and Suicide There is no doubt that suicide is a significant public health issue and has been one of the leading causes of death worldwide for many years. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, suicide is the second leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native youth ages 8 to 24, and American Indian and Alaska Native youth aged 10-24 have the highest rate of suicide of all demographic groups. Our LGBTQ youth have a higher rate of suicidal ideation than their straight peers, as reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Intimate partner violence can be directly correlated to suicide or attempting suicide. Intimate partner violence (IPV) may include physical, sexual, or psychological harm against a current or former partner or spouse. Offenders of IPV attempt to control their victims through fear, intimidation, threats, or force. Perpetrators may humiliate their partner, control what they do or who they see, withhold information or money, isolate their partner from family or friends, and or deny access to essential resources. 

     Survivors of intimate partner violence are twice as likely to attempt suicide, and many murder-suicide cases are most likely to occur with intimate partner violence. A new study by researchers at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and the Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC) reports that intimate partner violence is a precursor to 6.1% of all suicides. Approximately one-third of female homicides in the United States accompany domestic violence, and that number is steadily increasing. Nearly 10 million women and men are estimated to experience physical abuse by a current or former intimate partner each year in the United States. The number of women victims is significantly higher, although children, men, and elders may become targets of domestic violence. Victims of intimate partner violence of both sexes and all ages and races have resorted to suicide to escape their abuse. 

     Victims of intimate partner violence may be isolated from family and friends, feel disconnected, lose their sense of meaning, or have a failed sense of belonging and consider their death more valuable than their life. Suicide risk among victims of IPV becomes more significant from the increased loss of connectedness with others, social roles, and interests, as well as feeling like a burden to others. It may not always be easy to assess the risk of someone contemplating suicide, especially when the victim is isolated from friends and family. Reaching out to victims may not be safe for them. Letting your loved one know you are willing to get them help discreetly may be helpful. Please note that reaching out to a victim of intimate partner violence may not be safe for the victim. If the perpetrator feels the victim has betrayed them or told someone about the abuse-it may cause more abuse for the victim. Noting a change in behavior or new behaviors is one of the most evident signs of a person contemplating suicide. It becomes more concerning if the new or changed behavior is related to a painful event, such as losing a loved one, the end of a relationship, or domestic violence. 

     Most people who tend to take their lives display one or more of these warning signs:     


If a person talks about:

Killing themselves

Feeling hopeless

Having no reason to live 

Being a burden to others

Feeling trapped 

Having unbearable pain 


Behaviors that may signal risk, primarily if related to a painful event, loss, or change:

Increased use of alcohol or drugs 

Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods 

Withdrawing from activities Isolating from family and friends 

Sleeping too much or too little 

Visiting or calling people to say goodbye 

Giving away prized possessions 




People who are considering suicide may display one or more of the following moods:



Loss of interest 

Irritability Humiliation/Shame 


Relief/Sudden Improvement 

Many of us have had a personal experience with suicide. Having a family member or a friend who has taken their own life due to intimate partner violence can be devastating and leaves the family and friends wondering why. Many people wish they’d seen the signs earlier or didn’t even recognize them; they blame themselves, are left with unanswered questions, and struggle to find the answers. How can we help our loved ones who are suffering?

First of all, ask the question. Do not be afraid to ask, as it may save their life. Ask if they are contemplating suicide. Opening the door for conversation directly and unbiasedly can help express emotional pain. It can allow everyone involved to determine the steps to get help. Ask the question, and actively listen. Take your loved one answers seriously, and do NOT ignore them. Listen to their reasons for their pain. Help your loved one focus on their reasons for living and avoid trying to enforce your reasons for them to stay.

Be there for them. Being physically present, being connected on the phone, or showing any other support can eliminate the risk of suicide. Help create a list of ways for the loved one to connect to support when you are not available. Suicide helplines are always open and available for those in need. Keep your loved one safe. It is essential to know about plans of suicide to assess their immediate safety. Do they have a detailed plan? Do they have a time or date for their plan to suicide? Do they have access to or means to carry out their plan? Knowing these answers can help provide safety by eliminating the means to end their life. 

Help them connect. Helping your friend or loved one connect to ongoing support can help provide a safety net for moments of hopelessness or despair. Working on a safety plan can help the loved one connect with individuals who can help in desperation. Follow up. Check-in with your friend or loved one often. Leave a caring message, send a text, or make a phone call to let them know you are available and that you care. Continue to increase their connectedness to you and others.

Finding reasons for your loved one to stay may not always be easy, but there are many beautiful reasons to stay alive.

The Advocacy Resource Center is available for advocacy and support for intimate partner violence. 

The Lodge of Bravery (shelter) is available for those fleeing intimate partner violence. There is help available. You are not alone. The Advocacy Resource Center can be reached at 906-632-1808. The Suicide and Crisis Hotline number to dial is 9-8-8. The number connects those who feel suicidal or are experiencing a mental health crisis to a trained mental health professional. Please call the Advocacy Resource Center for assistance or the police for an emergency.

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