When someone takes his or her life, friends and family are often shocked and stunned, claiming they had no idea the person was struggling with dark feelings. All too often, that person was displaying several of the warning signs of suicide, but the others didn’t know or notice them. Or perhaps they might have wondered but were afraid to ask the “S” question.
If you saw someone showing the symptoms of a heart attack or choking, you’d know they were in danger and would provide or call for the help they needed. It’s just important to become knowledgeable about the risk factors and warning signs that suggest someone may be thinking about ending their life.
Changes in behavior. If you’ve seen dramatic changes in the person’s behavior, or if they’ve suddenly started displaying behaviors that aren’t typical for them, pay attention. That’s especially important if those changes in behavior have followed a loss or other difficult change in their life. Examples of behavior changes include increased use of alcohol or drugs, withdrawing from activities they enjoy, becoming isolated from family and friends, big changes in their sleep habits, giving away prized possessions, saying goodbye to people, overwhelming fatigue, or inappropriate aggression.
What they’re saying. If the person is mentioning suicide, frequently talking about death or having no reason to live, if they say they’re a burden to others or feel trapped or hopeless, or they express thoughts that they’re suffering unbearable pain, they’re at greater risk for suicide. Don’t brush those comments aside.
Dramatic mood swings. If you’ve noticed that the person has become significantly more depressed or anxious, if they’ve lost interest in the normal aspects of their lives, if they seem to be ashamed or humiliated, unusually irritable, or quick to anger, those could be warning signs. Also, if their mood makes a sudden improvement or they seem to instantly be relieved of all their problems, they may have made a decision to end their life.
Personal history and health. If the person has attempted suicide in the past or there’s a family history of suicide, the risk is higher. Childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma can also be a factor. Conditions such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, conduct and anxiety disorders, and traumatic brain injury also increase the risk, as does severe pain.
The person’s environment. If someone has easy access to lethal means of suicide, such as guns or drugs, the risk is much higher. Stressful life events such as divorce and relationship problems, a financial crisis, other losses, or prolonged stress like bullying, harassment, or unemployment also increase risk. Being exposed to another suicide or media accounts of suicide may also trigger someone to take their own life.
The most common conditions that are associated with suicide are depression, anxiety, or substance abuse issues. The good news is that with the right help, people can manage their mental health challenges and go on to live satisfying, fulfilling lives. They just may need someone like you to care enough to ask the question and then to guide them to help. If you’re not sure what to do, text 741741 for help. You’ll get an immediate response and practical guidance.
And if you’ve noticed those warning signs in your own life, please don’t try to fight them alone. Find someone who you can talk to. Contact us. You can call us at 317-790-9396 to sit down with one of our professionals, or you can text 741741 to help you find the support you need. Please don’t put it off. The sooner you find someone who can help, the faster you’ll find your way out of the darkness. You don’t belong there. There is hope.
Join us for our discussion about suicide and the church. Register here.
Join us for our community workshop on suicide and depression. Register here.