Before we begin, please understand we are NOT certified professionals. This is not medical advice. If you feel like you're going to hurt yourself or someone else, please call 1-800-273-8255
While not an easy topic to discuss for everyone, the following subject matter is a very real occurrence that affects the lives of many individuals. The topic we will be discussing today may be a sensitive area for some of our readers. However, it is important that both the affected and non-affected are equally equipped with knowledge and valuable information regarding how to handle some of the upcoming scenarios.
We would all like to think that life is wonderful and nothing bad ever happens. Unfortunately, that’s simply not true and the fact is people struggle every day. Tragically, some people take their problems and end their lives when it becomes too much to cope with.
There is no singular answer to why those suffering with mental illness commit suicide. It could be any number of reasons that in the end only make sense to the person going through with them. The main purpose of this article will be to provide some warning signs to watch out for in order to help those around you. While we may not be licensed medical professionals, the information here can be found on many websites dedicated to this very topic. We highly encourage those interested to dig as deep as they need to in order to fully understand this extremely important information.
It can seem easy to look back at a tragedy and see all the signs leading up. In real time, we convince ourselves that something isn’t as serious as it is or we willfully ignore what seems obvious in retrospect. The following signs are things to watch out for in order to potentially prevent a tragic situation from becoming a reality.
They Tell You: It may come as a surprise, but many individuals experiencing suicidal ideations will outright tell those around them their plan. This may come in many forms such as an offhanded comment, a dark joke or a sincere call for help. People will naturally cling to any sign that they should continue living. This can be a direct way they are confirming if anybody cares about them.
A Significant Loss: Change can be difficult. Change that involves losing something can seem nearly impossible to cope with. Comments like “I can’t go on without them” or extreme hopelessness can and should be viewed with serious concern. If somebody you know has just gotten fired or laid off from their job and begins talking about how they are a burden to others; this too can be a red flag. In fact, this is a very common one. Anniversaries for extreme occurrences, such as a loss or various other traumatic events may also bring upsetting memories back to light as the person who experienced those things reflects on that time in their life, possibly re-opening old wounds.
Reckless Behavior: Individuals who may be experiencing suicidal ideations, or perhaps have decided to end their lives may driving excessively fast, performing dangerous activities or perhaps escalating situations with no regard to any consequences which may follow. These are all warning signs to be aware of. This doesn’t always mean the person is suicidal, however, alarming behavior should be taken note of.
Sudden Mood Shift: This might come across as a good thing at first. For example, your friend has been brooding non-stop for weeks, a surly mess of emotion. Perhaps it’s become difficult to be around them because they’re bringing down the mood. Now, they they’ve become the life of the party. They’re all smiles and seemingly without a care in the world. While externally, this may come across as a positive step in their mindset, very commonly the opposite can be true instead. The reality is that this sudden shift may be because they’ve finally resolved themselves to end their life. In addition, extreme and sudden mood swings can also indicate someone is in an unstable emotional state.
Giving Away Prized Possessions: Whether it’s the baseball card collection they’ve been cherishing since childhood or the car they’ve been lovingly restoring for years, we all tend to have some material possession that means a lot to us. Many times, people will try to repurpose these things so somebody can feel the same way they did. Likewise, if somebody starts giving away extremely expensive things with little to nothing expected in return, this could mean their worldly possessions have no more meaning and they are preparing to move on.
Substance Abuse: There is nothing wrong with drinking alcohol casually. However, when someone is chronically abusing alcohol or other substances to cope with whatever issues or emotions they may be experiencing; this is not only dangerous, but possibly a sign of more dire underlying motives. If someone is continuously becoming intoxicated to the point of blackout or utilizing substance binges, it’s time to get them help.
Survivor’s guilt is the persistent mental and emotional stress experienced by someone who has survived an incident in which others have passed away. This incident doesn’t have to be experienced in close proximity to the actual passing, necessarily. Simply hearing about it can cause tremendous spiritual, mental and emotional pain.
Those close to the individual that have passed may feel guilt or remorse for any number of reasons. Their last interaction might have been a fight, maybe they were experiencing a recent conflict, or that person may have been a significant part of their own support system. They may feel that the death didn’t deserve to happen. This condition is a very real thing that can either impact someone immediately, or many years down the line.
Responding to Crisis
Building up the courage to address somebody you suspect of suicidal ideations can be as uncomfortable as finding out there is something actually concerning happening. Should you decide to reach out, here are a few things you will want to be aware of.
Be direct in asking the following:
“Have you thought about suicide?”
“Do you have a plan to commit suicide?”
“When and how would you execute this plan?”
Naturally, at first you may feel like being this direct would encourage the person to carry out their plan. Many studies have shown that acknowledging these ideations and discussing them have resulted in the opposite effect, and in fact reduce the risk, helping them get the mental health treatment they need, in order to cope with future stresses in life. In many cases, having this difficult conversation and utilizing this strong verbiage may cause the individual experiencing these emotions to feel that they have been ‘heard.’ These direct questions may result in an epiphany that those around them do care, and the conversation may be the catalyst to them receiving the care that is needed.
If you are on the phone with somebody who has expressed the desire end their life, make every effort to stay on the phone with them until they can be taken into the care of professionals. Contact family, friends, or emergency services to physically check on them while you continue to speak with them on the phone. If you are physically with them, make an attempt to receive their consent in going to receive help, willingly.
Acknowledging that their feelings are valid and that you see them can help pull somebody away from the edge of despair.
Finally, after the crisis has passed, it is important to follow up. Take the time to reach out and check on them afterwards and continue to do so. Recovering from such a low point does not have a set timeframe. Continuous support and follow may be very beneficial. It is important to understand that you do not need to be a licensed medical professional in order to be there and provide support for someone. Being someone close in their life is a very powerful factor in healing.
Surviving the Aftermath
Unfortunately, there is no perfect way to respond to crisis. Certain individuals may show no signs of distress. In some cases, we may realize somebody is in need once it is too late. We will be left stunned and looking at every interaction with a new lens of reality. Wondering where we went wrong and how the signs were always there, but nobody was paying attention.
In these difficult situations, it’s natural to blame ourselves for missing what may seem so obvious afterwards. The truth is, regardless of the events that lead to another’s passing, we are not responsible for that action. Do not take on that responsibility. It isn’t fair to yourself or those around you and it will not lead to anything positive.
If you find yourself deeply impacted by a death, suicide or any other event, recognize that it is okay to not to be okay. If you find yourself sinking deep into a depression or exhibiting some of the signs we’ve discussed in this article, please seek help. If you’re not comfortable reaching out to a friend or family member; the International Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) is available 24/7. Even in our darkest and most difficult moments, it is important to know that you are never alone, and help is always available. If you know someone experiencing any of the previously mentioned behaviors or observe something that raises suspicion; do not be afraid to lend a hand or reach out. In doing so, you may be saving a life.