The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that suicide is a leading cause of death among young people; it is third after accidents and homicides. However, suicidal thoughts and actions affect every demographic. They can occur at any time for many reasons. Never downplay suicidal thoughts or suicide. They’re not common issues, and you should not treat them as such. If someone you love has suicidal thoughts or attempts suicide, he or she needs serious help.
The Warning Signs of Suicide
Many signs can tell you if a loved one is feeling suicidal. The first sign might be comments like, “I wish I wasn’t here.” Such comments often become more overt—as in, “I wish I were dead.” The person may joke about suicide. If such comments are frequent, ask your loved one what he or she is feeling and if you can help.
Even if your loved one doesn’t say anything about suicide, his or her behavior could be a warning sign. Look for aggressive behavior, increased drug and alcohol use, or increased risk-taking. For instance, your loved one might already participate in extreme or contact sports. If he or she does so without safety gear or proper preparation, be vigilant. Your loved one might be using the hobby as a way to commit suicide but make it look accidental.
People considering suicide often withdraw from family and friends. They talk about death frequently and may write or draw about it. Know the difference between normal introverted behavior and a cry for help. If the withdrawal is sudden and frequent or if death is frequently the topic of conversation, talk to your loved one about it.
Signs of Imminent Suicide
Certain behaviors may indicate that a person is about to attempt suicide. For example:
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Giving away possessions, especially important or favorite ones
- Putting affairs in order, such as quitting a job, arranging care for children or pets, etc.
Many suicidal people have been depressed for a long time. Yet as they prepare to commit suicide, their mood will often shift. Beware if your loved one suddenly seems calm or happy. He or she hasn’t “snapped out of it.” What you’re seeing is relief or resolve. Your loved one believes that he or she finally has a permanent way to deal with despair.
Finally, watch for signs that your loved one is planning suicide. Not everyone makes an elaborate plan, but some people seek the materials they need before committing suicide. Watch for sudden increases in prescription medication refills. A suicidal person might also buy unusual supplies, or he or she may write out a plan about his or her intentions. If you find such a note, act immediately.
Suicide Risk Factors
Although suicidal thoughts and actions can happen to anyone, certain people are most at risk. Age is a huge risk factor; people under 24 and over 65 are likely to become suicidal. Substance abuse increases suicide risk as well. Since alcohol and drugs cause mental highs, coming down from a high can make depression worse. A suicidal person may seek harder drugs to get the same highs and find that they aren’t effective.
People in isolation are far more likely to become suicidal. People with disabilities or chronic illnesses are more likely to live in isolation because they can’t transport themselves or aren’t well enough to go out. Perpetual isolation can make people feel like others don’t notice or care about them or wouldn’t notice if they didn’t exist. This naturally leads to sadness, depression, and suicidal tendencies.
Recent tragedies or losses also contribute to these feelings. Be cognizant of family history. Those with a family history of suicide are more likely to commit suicide themselves. If multiple family members or friends have committed suicide, urge your family member or friend to seek counseling. Talking through emotions may help your loved one see that suicide is not an option.
If you or someone you know is suicidal, he or she needs immediate help from a mental health professional. Cognitive/behavioral therapy can improve mental resilience and prevent suicidal thoughts and actions. Medication (such as antidepressants) may also help.
The stigma of suicidal thoughts and actions often prevents people from getting help. You can sign a stigma-free pledge that lets people know that you see the person, not the depression or mental illness. Let others know that you are a source of compassion, understanding, and assistance. Take the Stigmafree pledge today, click the button below and take the pledge.