What if I told you that every 40 seconds someone takes their own life? That in fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth aged 10 to 24. It’s a hard pill to swallow, right? Truthfully, if the topic makes you uncomfortable, you aren’t alone.
That’s because conversation surrounding suicide is often swept under the rug. We think, it doesn’t apply to me; it’s not my problem. No one ever wants to believe that such a tragedy will touch their lives. And, when we’re struggling ourselves? We keep it a secret. Culturally, it’s viewed as weak to wrestle with such heavy feelings of hopelessness. And to take your own life? That’s considered unforgivably selfish.
But, the thing is, lead a conversation with anyone, and you’ll find that most of us have been touched by suicide in some way. In fact, since March, statistics surrounding the topic have skyrocketed, with some areas in our nation experiencing as much as a 70% increase in completed suicides. Think about it, that’s a lot of loss and speaks to the struggles many of us are confronting right now.
The last several months have been rough for many Americans. We’re grappling with collective trauma, grief, and loss on a massive scale. We’re grieving the basic human connections we once had that are no longer socially acceptable. The ones that came from giving a friend or family member a quick hug. Many of us have lost our careers, and with that, the basic framework surrounding our lives. And, living with immense levels of stress? That’s now the norm as we continue to bear the weight of constant uncertainty.
That said, there’s never been a more critical time to understand the risks and warning signs of suicide. Because honestly, it can affect your life at any time. In fact, in my 35 years on this planet, I have witnessed more loss by suicide than I can count on both hands. And every time, it was a shock. But, looking back, there were always signs; calls for help that often fell on mute ears.
So, without further ado, here are some of the indicators of suicide that are often missed, but with recognition, can save lives.
Changes in Personality or Behavior
Have you noticed personality or behavioral changes in someone close to you? Everything from withdrawal, to loss of interest in appearance, or even angry outbursts and absenteeism from work can be a sign of risk. Drops in work or school performance are also overlooked signs that something isn’t right.
When someone is struggling, it can be hard for them to see a way out. Many feel alone, isolated, and are unable to wrestle with the stigma that comes alongside asking for help. Below are some warning signs that someone may be struggling with depression.
Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, sad
Loss of interest in normally enjoyable activities
Changes in eating, sleeping patterns
Exhaustion, low energy
Feeling anxious, irritable, restless
Physical pain without a physical cause
Drop in performance at work or school
Trouble focusing or making decisions
Not wanting to be around other people
Remember, depression alone is not an indicator of suicide. But, those that struggle with it are at higher risk for completing suicide. Be particularly vigilant of other warning signs that may happen in conjunction with depression and increase risk.
Increase in Drug or Alcohol Use
Often, people who are struggling with thoughts of suicide will use substances to cope. However, this coping lends itself to further declines in mental health and can lead to impulsive behavior- all of which increase the likelihood of completed suicide.
Previous Suicide Attempts
If someone has a history of attempts, their chances of completing suicide increase significantly. Typically, people who have attempted suicide in the past are in heavy emotional pain, and suicide is seen as a last-ditch effort to escape. Talk of suicide or previous unsuccessful attempts should always be taken seriously.
Recent Loss of a Loved One by Suicide
It’s not uncommon when someone completes suicide that others in their life will follow suit. There’s an immense amount of emotional pain that comes alongside loss, and suicide is often seen as a way out for people who are struggling.
Threats of Suicide
Too often, we see threats of suicide as attention-seeking behavior, leaving calls for help to fall on deaf ears. Sadly, this results in the loss of many lives that could have otherwise been saved. Take all threats of suicide seriously, and help those who are struggling to find support.
Read More: How to Support Someone Who is Suicidal
While not everyone struggling with their mental health will complete suicide, it is a notable risk factor. In fact, 95% of people who complete suicide grapple with mental illness. At highest risk are those afflicted with depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder.
Preparation for Death
Many of those who are considering suicide will carry out end of life activities. These activities include making a will, saying goodbyes, apologizing for past indiscretions, and giving away prized possessions. If not readily available, people considering suicide may also seek out means for ending their life.
Sudden Uplift in Mood
If someone has been feeling blue for quite some time, then a sudden, unexplained, uplift in mood should be considered a serious warning sign. In fact, it’s a commonplace indicator that is often overlooked. Many people view it as a positive sign that someone is feeling better, when, in fact, it’s often an indicator someone has decided to end their life. They feel their pain will be over soon, and the heavyweight of hopelessness is then lifted.
What to Do if Someone is Struggling?
If you’re concerned, don’t be afraid to pop the question. It’s important to ask about thoughts of suicide. Many people feel that by asking the question, they might plant the idea in someone’s mind, but that’s far from true. Many people find it relieving to talk about their struggles and are grateful for the people who reach out to support them.
Learn More: How to Talk to Someone About Suicide
That said, if someone reports that they are considering suicide, it’s crucial to help them get support. For those who have immediate plans and means, someone will need to stay with them until they are safe. They will need to go to the emergency room and be evaluated by a mental health professional. If they’re in immediate danger, you will need to call 911.
Learn More: Responding to Suicide Warning Signs
If you have a child who is struggling, know that we’re here to help. We provide mental health support to youth and families within a sixty-mile radius of all our 30 locations across Montana. To learn more, contact us through our website or call 406-245-6539 for more information.
Are You Struggling?
You don’t need to bear the heavyweight of sadness without support. It might feel like you’re alone in your struggles, but there are people out there who care about you and want to help. Call a friend or family member, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).