(The introduction of this article has been modified as it was brought to my attention by a reader that my intent was lost by my choice of words.)
September is National Suicide prevention month. While there are many articles targeted toward people with suicidal thoughts and tendencies…I think it is just as important to focus on improving the thought process of the community around these individuals. They say things like, “I just thought you were a strong person,” or “I have never thought about suicide.” These comments and mentalities are extremely unhelpful at best and antagonizing at worst. People may believe that suicide is an act of selfishness. After all, the decision to commit suicide is a finite statement by someone that their ultimate concern, relief from mental anguish, is more heavily weighed than the effect their death has on people in relationship with him/her. The act of suicide affects many people. The passer’s by who don’t know the person and witness a suicide are affected, the people who are relatives of the deceased are left to forever wonder about the loss, the mindstate and the eternal resting place of their loved one. It somewhat leaves everyone with an utter sense of dismay. I have a cousin who committed suicide and I remember all the questions and mental anguish that was brought upon us even though I was a very young at the time. In fact, at the time, I was too young to understand why anyone would want to take their own life. The pressures of life are real and can be severe. If a person gets wrapped up in a “woe-is-me…I’m living in hell” perception of their lives, wouldn’t it be easier to tap out? Think about it, I don’t have to endure any more bodily pain or mental suffering, I don’t have to file for bankruptcy or live on the streets, I don’t have to replay that molestation in my mind any longer, I don’t have to process not one more rejection. Suicide is the great escape from emotional turmoil for the individual who can’t seem to think beyond themselves and their problems.
My intent is not to rip on people who have these thoughts but to explain their thought process and how loved one’s can help. I desire to be objective and to highlight the relational aspect as much as possible also. I do recognize that many people who commit suicide are suffering from mental disorders and some even, the physical pain of chronic illness. I’d like to share some discoveries and connections that mental illness has with suicide rates. According to webMD.com suicide is a “potential consequence for major depression disorder, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance use disorders and anxiety disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa.” One of the biggest problems with diagnosis and treatment of clinical or major depression is that people don’t recognize the symptoms. WebMD.com goes on to say that, “Approximately half the people who experience symptoms never do get diagnosed or treated for their illness. Not getting treatment can be life threatening. More than one out of every 10 people battling depression commits suicide. Over 90% of people who die by suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental disorder.” Since depression carries such high risk of suicide, perhaps we should delve into that mental illness a little more deeply.
Let’s talk about how to identify and help those who are depressed and furthermore, contemplating suicide. What options does a person have who feels like they don’t have any other viable way out of their current state of life? Are you an option? How can you help your loved one? You can simply love them. Often enough a depressed person feels detached from other people so, letting them know that you love them is a huge thing. I believe it also helps to combat that self-focus that I described at the beginning of this article. Another thing you can do is to recognize the warning signs of suicide with depression. Don’t be afraid to ask them direct questions as the ones listed on the suicide assessment that I have linked below. I’ve also attached other research and reading on this subject. You are your loved one’s best hope so, educate yourself on the issue.
- A sudden switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
- Always talking or thinking about death
- Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
- Excessive sadness or moodiness; long-lasting sadness, mood swings, and unexpected rage. Sometimes rage is turned inward.
- Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving through red lights
- Losing interest in things one used to care about
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
- Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
- Saying things like “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out”
- Talking about suicide (killing one’s self)
- Visiting or calling people one cares about
- Recent trauma or life crisis
Immediate help hotlines:
Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) — or the deaf hotline at 1-800-799-4TTY (1-800-799-4889).
*** If need be, you can also take them to emergency to get diagnosed. ***
Other risk factors for suicide include:
- One or more prior suicide attempts
- Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
- Family history of suicide
- Family violence
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Keeping firearms in the home
- Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
- Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others