What You Need to Know About Suicide
Suicide is heartbreakingly common. It’s the second leading cause of death in people between ten and 34 years of age and the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States.
Many people struggling with suicidal thoughts feel desperately alone, yet suicide remains a topic rarely discussed in many circles of our society. Whether you or someone you love is struggling with these feelings, you need help and support.
Why is it so hard to talk about?
People can feel uncomfortable initiating discussions about painful feelings. They may feel like they should be able to “just deal with it” or that others have it worse. They may worry that they will burden others. Or they may be afraid of being seen as weak and incapable. So if you have a loved one struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, it may be up to you to start the conversation in a loving, helpful way.
Be careful how you speak when discussing suicide.
When speaking about someone who has taken their own life, avoid the phrase “committed suicide". This sounds almost accusatory, creates blame, and hurts those who are left behind. Instead, try saying: “died as a result of suicide,” “died from suicide,” "completed suicide, "or even “ended their life.” Another common mistake is asking family members how exactly the person died. Don’t ask that question at all.
Talking about suicide will not make someone more likely to do it.
Many people fear that discussing suicide will make troubled loved ones think about it more and increase the likelihood that they will hurt themselves. But in reality, the opposite is true. When someone expresses suicidal ideations or thoughts, talking about it can serve as a deterrent. Inquiring about these thoughts shows emotional support and care, and can often better direct the suffering person to get the help they need.
Suicide is an implusive act.
Interviews with many survivors of suicide attempts reveal that th
ey often regretted their decision as soon as they made it. In one study of 515 people who attempted to end their lives by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge,
90 percent never attempted suicide again
and most reported they were grateful to be alive. All too often suicide happens on a whim, not a committed plan. You can help prevent someone from suicide simply by talking to them about what they’re struggling with and assisting them to get professional help.
Suicide is not caused by a bad breakup or another difficult life event
the major things people get wrong about suicide
is thinking they can pinpoint the event that caused it. With rare exception, suicide is because of mental illness. We often hear in the media, ‘Why did he do it?’ as if a job loss or romantic breakup holds the key to the tragedy. But these things happen daily to millions of people who do not even contemplate suicide. Mental pain from difficult life events may be involved with suicide, but it is usually not the sole cause.
Be aware of these easy to miss warning signs:
People can be more likely to attempt suicide as their depression starts to lift
Often, the beginning phases of treatment will improve motivation, concentration, and energy levels, making it more likely for someone to follow through with a suicide attempt if their suicidal thoughts are still lingering.
Substance abuse can be a warning sign
The crushing depression that often comes with suicidal tendencies makes living everyday life feel incredibly hard, if not impossible. So people will do whatever they can to cope with their feelings, even if that “solution” ends up making the problem worse—like abusing drugs or alcohol.
They undergo drastic behavior changes
Any significant and unexplained changes in behavior should at least be a cause for inquiry. Negative changes are concerning, but pay attention to a sudden change that seems positive...consider that someone may be feeling relief from having made a decision to end their misery.
They withdraw from friends or social activities
Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities can be possible symptoms of depression. Any sign that indicates loss of interest in activities the person previously enjoyed is suspicious.
They make plans
One of the suicide warning signs is that often, a person considering suicide will take steps to put his personal business in order. The person may give away possessions they previously loved or write a note to loved ones.
They lose interest in personal appearance
A person who is considering suicide might suddenly become less concerned about how he looks and neglect personal hygiene. They may be more focused on survival than their appearance.
Don’t beat yourself up if someone you love attempts or completes suicide.
Most people who are suicidal don’t ‘look suicidal. People often associate depression with a certain stereotype they’ve seen in the media or assume that the person will look depressed or talk about suicide. Sure, that can be part of it, but a lot of it is hidden. There’s no neon sign that says, ‘This person is thinking about suicide.’ It’s easy not to know. Even professionals miss it sometimes.
It’s OK to be mad at the person. Dealing with suicidal ideations or a completed suicide is exhausting and painful for everyone involved. It’s important to allow yourself to feel all your feelings. You might feel helpless, sad, excluded, or you might feel upset or like they are selfish. It’s OK to experience love and anger at the same time. All of those feelings are valid, and you’re allowed to feel them while still offering understanding and compassion. You should also remember to keep an eye on yourself when dealing with something like this since caregivers are at a higher risk for depression.
As always, SYFS is here to help. Don't hesitate to call us.
Christine Mowry, Executive Director