Suicide is always a tragedy. Taking one’s own life is something only done when a person is in extreme pain and feels so hopeless that death seems like the only way to escape it. Unfortunately, what they leave behind is a lot of pain and questions for their family, friends, and loved ones.
While there is no one, certain cause, there are certain risk factors that increase a person’s chances of being suicidal:
- Mental health issues such as depression, substance addiction, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and problems with aggression.
- Serious chronic illness or injury.
- Prolonged stress from abuse.
- Major life changes such as death or divorce.
- Exposure to suicide.
- Access to lethal means.
Access to professional mental health care can help with many of these risk factors. While some of these issues, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, can be treated with things such as light box therapy, plants, and mood-boosting room colors, more serious issues need professional help. For instance, those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may need intensive cognitive-processing therapy, stress-inoculation training, and medication. When in doubt, talking to a doctor about these issues and the best course of treatment is advisable.
Warning Signs: When It’s Time To Seek Help
Talking the Talk
If someone you know often talks about suicide, death, and ways to die, that is a clear sign of depression. Even casual mentions of “wanting to kill myself” can mean something. If you notice someone doing this, tell them you are concerned and let them know you are willing to help.
Searching for a Means
Another warning sign one may notice is the search for a means to kill oneself. Seeing suspicious search histories, watching media that feature suicide, and suddenly purchasing a firearm are all clues that may tip you off. While you should always talk to a person if you fear for their safety, it may also help to remove the means from their access.
Increased Substance Abuse
When mental illness makes it difficult to feel anything positive, many people turn to drugs or alcohol in order to feel anything at all. If you notice an increase in substance abuse in a person, they are disconnecting from their body and disregarding its value. It’s definitely time to talk to them and let them know you are concerned.
Feeling Like a Burden
A friend or family member often disparaging themselves and characterizing themselves as a burden is a clear warning sign. Feeling unwanted and like “the world would be better off” without them are both driving emotions behind suicide.
Unloading Personal Items
Getting rid of personal items with little explanation other than they are not needed is another sign to look out for. This is seen as a way to leave some part of themselves behind with people they care about.
What should you do?
If you believe someone you know is suicidal, the most important thing you can do is reach out to them. It is a myth that bringing up suicide to someone you believe is at risk implants the idea in their head. Talking with them about your concerns and their feelings is a small but powerful way to show them that they are wanted and not alone.
From there, it’s important you help them connect with some sort of support, whether it be a counselor or a trusted family member. In Canada, they can seek help by calling 9-1-1 or the Canada Suicide Prevention Service by phone (1-833-456-4566), text (45645) or chat.
Suicide is a tragic way for a person to go. Looking for warning signs and letting those you believe are at risk can help save lives. If you or someone you know is suicidal, please get help through counseling before it is too late.