DISCLAIMER: This blog article contains discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know might be struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255, text at 741741, or chat online at 988lifeline.org.
There is no crystal ball to predict suicide. Despite all of our advances in the field of psychology and mental health research. One would think that by now we should have a pretty good idea of who is and who isn't going to die by suicide. Perform any web search on "predicting suicide" and what you will in your search results is a summation of the sentiment that it does not matter how long we’ve known someone or how much we know about them, we have no means of predicting whether they will die by suicide. Individuals who appear to be functioning well on the surface may be hiding their inner turmoil, while others who exhibit clear warning signs may not ultimately attempt suicide. People can change, and their feelings and intentions can shift rapidly. It's an unsettling realization.
Suicide is the result of a complex interplay of various factors, including biological, psychological, social, and environmental influences. Of course, as we discussed in our last article, "Suicide Unmasked: 5 Myths About Suicide Debunked," there are certain risk factors such as a history of mental health issues, substance abuse, or a recent loss or crisis. However, even these risk factors do not guarantee that an individual will attempt suicide. Again, people can change, and their feelings and intentions can shift rapidly. It can be challenging to recognize whether someone you know is contemplating suicide. So, what do we do?
Verbal Warning Signs:
Talking about death or dying
Talking about wanting to die or wishing they'd never been born
Talking about great guilt or shame
Talking about being a burden to others
Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped
Hopeless or trapped
Unbearable emotional or physical pain
Mood swings-feeling emotionally high one day and deeply discouraged the next
Behavioral Warning Signs:
Displaying extreme mood swings
Eating or sleeping more or less
Drinking alcohol more than usual
Researching ways to die
Becoming a daredevil, taking more risks like driving recklessly
Avoiding people especially friends or family
Conversations that feel like a goodbye
Giving important items away, making a will
Researching ways to die or making plans
OTHER GLARING WARNING SIGNS:
Getting the means to take one's own life, such as buying a gun or stockpiling pills
History of a previous suicide attempt
Family history of suicide attempts or deaths by suicide
Are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender with an unsupportive family or in a hostile environment
Having a medical or psychiatric condition
Recent losses (loss of loved one, loss of pet, loss of career/job)
For kids and teens, many of the signs are similar to those of any other adult person. However, here are a few signs to be on the lookout for with this age group:
Death of close friend or family member
Conflict with close friend or family member
History of physical or sexual abuse
Uncertainty about sexual orientation
Reading or hearing about peer who died by suicide
Becoming pregnant or contracting sexually transmitted infection
WITH KIDS AND TEENS ESPECIALLY BE ON THE LOOK OUT FOR: increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior when taking antidepressants. Antidepressants are not a rapid acting fix. It takes time for the medication to begin working. Please be especially aware of kids and teens in the first few weeks after starting a depression medication or when the dose is changed.
Friends and family members cannot underestimate the pivotal role they play in helping therapist and other medical care providers in identifying suicide warning signs of their loved ones. It is essential to maintain open lines of communication and approach loved ones who exhibit these signs with compassion and empathy. In fact, be heavy on the compassion and empathy. Then do not go it alone. Encourage them to seek professional help immediately. Do not hesitate to reach out to these resources when needed. Recognizing suicide warning signs is not just a responsibility; it is a lifeline. By being vigilant and informed, we can help individuals in crisis access the support and intervention they need. I hope that this list today gets you well on the way to identifying when someone you know and love are crying silently. If while reviewing this article you thought of any warning signs that I may have missed, please share them in the comments below. And while you are at it, please share the LOCAL number to crisis services in your area.
While there may be no crystal ball for predicting suicide, there are proactive steps we can take to address this issue effectively. Education and awareness campaigns can help people recognize the warning signs and risk factors associated with suicide. As we try to do here each week at EnvisionCo Blog, encouraging open dialogue about mental health and wellness thus creating a supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable taking those first steps to seek help.
This month we paused to bring awareness to Suicide Prevention Month by exploring our language and avoiding offensive, stigmatizing statements; by examining the facts vs. the myths surrounding suicide; and lastly by exploring some warning signs to be on the lookout for. While we may not be able to predict suicide definitively, we can work together to prevent it and save lives. After taking a second look at the articles this month and you find yourself worried that either you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, reach out to a mental health professional or a crisis hotline immediately. And as always, please remember. Wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Take care of yourselves and take care of each other. Until next time. Happy reading.
"In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit." ~Albert Schweitzer
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