What if I told you every 40 seconds, someone takes their life? That it’s so common that suicide is actually the second leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 10 and 24. It’s a hard pill to swallow, right? Honestly, if the topic makes you uncomfortable, you aren’t alone.
Frequently, we sweep conversations about suicide under the rug. We think, “it’s not my problem.” No one ever wants to believe that such a tragedy will touch their lives.
However, the truth is that most of us have been affected by it at some point in our lives. In fact, during my 36 years on this planet, I’ve witnessed more loss by suicide than I can count on both hands. And you know what? Every time it was a shock. But, looking back, there were always signs—Calls for help that fell on deaf ears.
Below are some of the indicators of suicide, that when recognized early, can save lives.
Changes in Personality or Behavior
Have you noticed personality or behavior changes in someone you care about? 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 common signs that something isn’t right.
When someone is struggling with depression, it can be hard for them to see a way out. They may feel alone, isolated, or unable to wrestle with the stigma that comes alongside asking for help.
Below are some of the indicators of depression.
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies, or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation, or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
- Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
Keep in mind that depression alone is not an indicator of suicide. But, those who struggle with it are at higher risk for completing suicide. Therefore, be particularly vigilant of other warning signs that may happen in conjunction with depression and increase risk.
Increase in Drug or Alcohol Use
Often, those experiencing thoughts of suicide will use substances to cope. However, this leads to further declines in mental health and potentially impulsive behavior— both of which increase risk.
Previous Suicide Attempts
If someone has a history of attempts, their chance of completing suicide significantly increases. Typically, people who have done this are in heavy emotional pain, and suicide is a last-ditch effort to escape. Therefore, you should always take talk about suicide or previous attempts 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).