Suicide is not a mental disorder but a serious consequence caused by a mental health decline that can be prevented. Examples of these treatable mental disorders are bipolar disorder, substance use disorders, major depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and many more. If these mental disorders are addressed earlier, it won’t lead to the loss of life.
If you’re concerned that a family member or loved one has suicidal thoughts, you should reach out to help. Please do not wait until it’s too late; you can save a life by simply reaching out. In this post, you will learn how to recognize the signs of suicide and what you can do to help.
Warning Signs Of a Suicidal Behavior
The following are the warning signs of a person with suicidal behavior. As soon as you observe at least one of these warning signs, reach out right away and seek help.
Feeling hopeless: When a person feels hopeless, the person may lack optimism and reason to live. A person who feels hopeless lacks the motivation for a better future or success.
Feeling trapped: Persons who feel trapped is unable to say NO to the people around them. This means they cannot take control of their lives and always say YES to the people around them even if they don’t want to.
Sleep changes: Insomnia, oversleeps or remains in their room most of the time (because of depression)
Changes in appearance or personality: A suicidal person may exhibit a change in appearance, personality, or behavior. In addition, there’s also severe sadness, unexplainable mood swings, and rage.
Self-harm or dangerous behavior: They engage in harmful behaviors because subconsciously, they no longer value their life. Examples of these actions are reckless driving and excessive use of alcohol or drugs.
Withdrawal: Withdrawal from friends, family, and social activities. This also includes loss of interest in activities enjoyed before.
Recent life crisis or trauma: A recent trauma like divorce, death of a loved one, financial problems, diagnosis of a life-threatening illness, or job loss may trigger a suicide attempt.
Preparation or planning their death: In some cases, a person considering suicide may make preparations and put their personal business in order. Examples of these are visiting loved ones, making a will, giving away personal possessions, giving away money, cleaning up their house, and writing a note. Others may purchase firearms or poisons to use for their suicide.
There’s a sudden calmness: People who made preparations about their suicide will suddenly feel calm after a period of depression. There’s sudden calmness because they’re finally at peace, knowing that they no longer have to deal with their problems.
Talking about suicide: When a person is talking about suicide, this should be taken seriously. They say things like, “I don’t want to be a burden to others anymore. I think it would be better for everyone if I was not here”. It can also come in the form of talking about feeling hopeless or tired to live. However, not everyone talking about wanting to die will follow through with it.
Where does the suicidal behavior of a person come from? It’s hard to determine what causes a person’s suicidal thoughts, but you can at least be aware of those who are at higher risk of considering suicide. These are the known risk factors:
- Has previous suicide attempts
- Has an underlying mental health condition like depression, substance use, nervous breakdown, anxiety disorders, and many more.
- Previously diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness (e.g., cancer, chronic kidney disease, HIV/AIDS)
- Financial or legal problems
- Easy access to lethal means (like firearms, medications for overdose, poison)
- Impulsive or violent behavior
- Substance abuse problems
- Living a stressful life
- History of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse
- Traumatic experiences like bullying or neglect
- End of a romantic relationship like divorce or break up
- Death of a spouse
- Does not have a support system, friends, or loved ones to talk to
Cultural, Community, Societal, And Mental Health Factors
- Is embarrassed to seek help because of the stigma around mental health issues
- Lack of access to mental health care facilities or therapists in the area
- Unable to afford mental health care services or buy medications
- A religious or cultural belief that taking away one’s life is a more noble option than resolving a problem
- The influence of social media or mainstream media (as the news can give them the idea of thinking about suicide to end a problem)
- Socially isolated
Family History Of Suicide
- Family history of suicide
- A family member with psychiatric illness
- A family or a loved one who attempted suicide
People who are likely to commit suicide are teens, young adults, and the elderly. However, you’ll never know who might think of considering suicide. It can be a friend, a coworker, any family member of any age or gender. Never be too complacent that a person around you cannot attempt suicide.
What To Do If You Think Someone has Suicidal Signs?
Now that you’re aware of the warning signs and risk factors of someone who is suicidal, you should do something about it as you detect these signs. By all means, extend help as soon as possible and do whatever you can to help. By reaching out, you can save a life and change their life for the better.
Here are the things you can do to help:
- Ask if they’re going through something. Ask if they’re feeling okay if they need someone to talk to or if they have suicidal thoughts.
- Be an active listener, and be careful of your choice of words not to sound judgmental. This is a delicate situation as your words can affect how they feel.
- Instead of trying to talking out to not commit the act, let them know that this might be depression they experience. This may be a phase that can be managed by talking to a therapist.
- Encourage your loved one to seek help from a counselor or therapist.
If you feel that someone is in immediate danger of committing suicide, here’s what you should do:
- The first step is to calm the person down, and you should calm down as well.
- As much as possible, never leave the person alone. Ask your friends, family members, and loved ones for help to be present and keep an eye on them 24/7 without being too obvious. Do not let the person drive, walk outdoors on their own, or go somewhere unsupervised.
- Take away lethal weapons or any instrument that can be used to execute the act. It could be a gun, kitchen knife, household cleaners, poison, sharp objects, prescription medication, or rope. Of course, do not be too obvious and do not panic as this will only cause further stress to that person.
- If a person at suicide risk is in a psychiatric facility, inform the attending medical team immediately.
- Call 911, suicide prevention hotlines, or the Kentucky Suicide & Crisis Hotlines
Can Suicide Be Prevented?
Yes, suicide can be prevented in two ways: with the intervention of loved ones and early detection of suicide warning signs. Friends and family need to detect signs of mental health conditions and seek help right away. As soon as the person feels depressed, seek treatment by talking to a mental health professional; this is the best step to suicide prevention.
In addition, if the friends, family, and support system are there to talk to the person attempting suicide, this can be prevented. Attempted suicide is a cry for help. Sometimes, all they need is someone to talk to and someone to listen without judgment. That could be you. You can save and change a life by simply extending your support and by listening.
Treatment For Individuals Who Are At Risk For Suicide
If you know a loved one at risk of suicide, support them by accompanying them to a therapist and when seeking treatment. The most common treatment options for people who are at risk of suicide are Talk Therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.
Doctors may prescribe medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antianxiety medications. Make sure to properly monitor how the person drinks the meds because they might think of overdosing.
The treatment does not happen overnight, and there should be a change in the lifestyle. As for friends and family, this is where you play a significant role. Here’s what you can do to help them with their lifestyle change:
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle: Eat nutritious foods, exercise, walk outdoors, sleep well, enjoy nature, read a good book, meditate, and do deep breathing exercises.
- Help them avoid reckless behaviors: For people with suicide risk who have substance abuse disorder, let them stay away from drinking alcohol or doing drugs.
Talk Therapy for suicidal signs
The last and most important intervention is to let them talk to a counselor or therapist. Talk therapies like psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) play a significant role in suicide prevention.
Talk To A Therapist Now
Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for days and long queue lines to talk to a therapist. If there’s someone you know that you think needs support, seek professional help for them. If you’re from Kentucky or Ohio, you can schedule an appointment and have mental health counseling at Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC).