People of all ages, genders and backgrounds can have suicidal thoughts. Often, mental health conditions go untreated before a suicide occurs. In spite of being common, suicidal thoughts are not normal, and are often indicative of a more serious problem.
People of all ages, genders, and backgrounds can have suicidal thoughts. Often, mental health conditions go untreated before a suicide occurs. In spite of being common, suicidal thoughts are not normal and are often indicative of a more serious problem.
Before we begin: This article for National Suicide Prevention Week will be discussing suicide, the causes and signs of suicidal ideation, and methods of suicide prevention. If this could trigger an episode for you, now is the time to back out and seek help. Remember, you’re not alone.
For most people, the thought of death fills them with a sense of deep, unavoidable existential dread. However, for some, living becomes so hellish that even the fear of what comes after pales in comparison to the relief and release promised by the end.
Whether it’s caused by mental illness or situational factors, suicide is one of the leading causes of death for Americans. In fact, according to the CDC, one American commits suicide every eleven minutes. That’s around a hundred and thirty people each day.
Why has suicide become such a massive public health crisis? Let’s dive into further detail.
Committing un-alive. Cashing in your own life insurance policy. Finishing your pasta. All these are euphemisms teens and young adults have come up with to discuss suicide and feeling suicidal on a platform where the very use of the word “suicide” can get your account banned for Terms of Service violations.
What is suicide? In simplest terms, suicide occurs when a person decides to take their own life. Reality is not always so simple, however, as suicide can take many forms. Most end it by their own hands, but some seek the assistance of others to end it. Others decide to end their lives by taking someone else out with them through murder-suicide.
Suicide can affect certain demographics more heavily, as we will discuss below. However, overall, it cares not for race, gender, orientation, creed, age, or financial standing. Suicide cuts across the entire population like a self-imposed reaper’s scythe.
If you think it can’t happen in your community or family, think again. It’s not as easy to predict who will end their lives as Hollywood dramas make it seem.
Suicidal ideation is, in essence, a thought process related to killing yourself. It’s the more technical term for “having suicidal thoughts” or “feeling suicidal”. While suicidal ideation is a risk factor for suicide, we must note that not everyone who has suicidal ideation acts upon it or is at critical risk for suicide.
Suicidal ideation is a common symptom of Major Depressive Disorder. If you feel like you may be suffering from clinical depression, make use of our Depression Self Test to gauge the severity of your symptoms.
As we discussed above, suicide strikes across all ages and demographics. That said, there are certain genetic, social, and environmental risk factors for suicidal ideation. These risk factors include, but are not limited to:
Abuse is possibly one of the biggest risk factors for suicide, as it can cause many of the comorbid mental health conditions that lead to suicidal ideation. Worse, it can sever someone’s ability to form social safety nets of friends and family. That makes sufferers feel more isolated, unloved, and purposeless.
This physical and emotional abuse can take many forms, including:
Abuse on its own can increase suicide risk. However, it often combines with or causes other suicide risk factors on our list.
What do combat veterans, survivors of sexual assault, and children of severely dysfunctional families all have in common? Each of these demographics has suffered from severe trauma that places them at higher risk of suicide. Trauma can outright cause or result from mental health disorders, increasing a person’s suicide risk.
We must note that trauma is not measurable on an objective scale. Events that proved traumatizing for one person might get shrugged off by another. That’s why it’s so important for employees of any suicide prevention hotline to understand that trauma is relative and must always be treated with empathy and kindness.
The statistics regarding living in a marginalized community and suicide risk aren’t pretty. People who live in such communities are more likely to suffer from poverty, lack access to mental health care, or become traumatized by abuse, hate crimes, and other serious problems.
According to the Trevor Project, one LGBTQ+ youth attempts to commit suicide every forty-five seconds. If we narrow the focus to the transgender community, at least half of them have seriously contemplated suicide.
Nothing breeds the feeling of hopelessness quite like receiving a diagnosis from which there is no recovery. Whether one struggles with a chronic illness or receives a diagnosis for a terminal illness, either option can bring someone to call a suicide prevention line.
It’s quite common for those facing this sort of diagnosis to feel as if they’ve become a burden to their loved ones. That’s why it’s so important to build a support network if you deal with some sort of chronic or terminal illness.
Stress kills, and there’s no greater cause of stress than financial hardship. One reason why mental health concerns spiked during the pandemic is due to the widespread economic damage caused by the virus. Poverty and homelessness both breed a sense of helplessness that allows suicidal ideation to flourish.
It’s never easy to cope when a loved one leaves us. However, for some, the grief and overwhelming sense of loss make them want to join the one they lost. This is also why it’s common to see a rash of copycat suicides when a celebrity chooses to leave us behind. A recent study from South Korea looked into this effect, commonly known as the Werther effect.
Another potential reason that the loss of a loved one could contribute to suicidal ideation? If the lost loved one was a child or a pet, it could lead to a sense of purposelessness in the survivor.
While everyone’s relationship with social media is unique, using these platforms should not make you feel unhappy or anxious. If you log off Facebook or Instagram feeling worse about yourself than before you started scrolling, your feeds may be impacting your mental health — and you may want to reduce your screen time.
Suicidal behavior isn’t always as withdrawn and taciturn as the movies would have you believe. Sometimes, people who feel suicidal simply don’t care for their lives or safety. This can show itself in reckless behavior like:
If someone you love turns into a risk-taker almost overnight, it could be a warning sign that they want to end it all.
Social withdrawal is one of the classic symptoms of suicidal ideation, especially in media representations. This is often fueled by the suicidal party believing that no one cares for them. Or, alternatively, that they are a burden to those who care for them. Either thought process can trigger this sort of withdrawing behavior.
This sort of withdrawal can also be a sign of a major depressive episode. No matter what the suspected cause, make sure to reach out to your friends if you notice this behavior.
Self-care is a critical piece of your mental health. If someone seems to have stopped caring at all for their hygiene, nutrition intake, or living space, it could be a sign that they’re considering suicide. It could also be a sign that they’re dealing with a major depressive episode, so before you call a suicide prevention line, reach out to the person first.
It’s also important to note that this lack of self-care can manifest as someone not giving themselves time to rest. So, you should also reach out if a friend or loved one suddenly becomes hyper-productive or manic.
Some people are generous with their things. However, if someone you love suddenly parts from a treasured possession, it could indicate that they will soon commit suicide. If someone you love suddenly gives you something they would never dream of parting with before, ask them why before it’s too late.
On a similar note, if someone seems in a hurry to tie up any loose ends, it could indicate that they intend to end their lives. This can manifest in many forms, including:
Someone intent on committing suicide may not want to leave too many loose ends for others to tie up behind them. Especially if they already feel like a burden to those they love.
As popular as Millennials’ gallows humor regarding suicide can be, someone speaking about their desire to die can be a serious warning sign. However, it’s not always as obvious as someone directly stating that they want to die. Some phrases that may indicate that someone is feeling suicidal include:
If someone you love starts talking like this, it’s time to have a talk with them and encourage them to reach out to a suicide prevention lifeline if you can.
Has someone you know been severely depressed or anxious for a long time, but suddenly seems happier than ever before? It might be a sign that they’re on the mend. Or, more ominously, it might be a sign that they’ve committed to the thought of ending their lives.
Why does this happen when suicide usually seems like such an impulsive, emotionally driven decision? Well, think about it logically. If you premeditate it and have decided to bring an end to things, there’s no need to worry about the troubles of life anymore, is there?
The most telling warning sign that someone may commit suicide is that they acquire a method to do so. If someone you know or love purchases a tope, a firearm, or a knife, seemingly unprompted, it might be time to check in on them. Or, if the situation seems more emergent than that, to involve the police.
Buying a firearm is by far the most ominous sign of these. According to Rutgers, those who purchased a firearm during the pandemic became much more likely to commit suicide than those who didn’t.
Of course, if you or a loved one struggles with suicidal ideation, contacting a suicide prevention hotline is always an option. However, even without those phone lines, you can find ways to prevent suicide from striking close to home. Some of the best ways that you can prevent this tragedy include:
One of the biggest reasons why people feel suicidal is due to the lack of an emotional support network. This is also one of the reasons why men with depression struggle to get the help they need.
So, if you suspect that someone you love may be feeling suicidal, start trying to establish and solidify a support network for them. Not sure how to get started? Some common sources for a support network include:
In order to ensure that you have solid support through thick and thin, it’s best to diversify your social support network to include multiple sources. If you rely too heavily on one pillar of the support network and it collapses, it can leave you without the stabilization you need.
A key part of the information put forward during National Suicide Prevention Week is the importance of reaching out to friends and family in distress. Too often, outsiders place the onus of reaching out on the person dealing with suicidal ideation. Then, after the fact, they wring their hands in despair that the person never reached out.
If you know that your loved ones are in distress, don’t assume that they’re fine. Reach out and offer your listening ear. Be willing to listen without judging and without offering advice, as these reactions can make it seem like you’re being dismissive or cruel.
What’s one common reason that someone who’s suicidal hesitates to reach out to their loved ones? The ones who are supposed to serve as their support network find a way to make the suicidal party’s problems all about them instead. This can manifest as parents and friends getting defensive or blaming their loved one for feeling the way they do.
Or, in a clumsy attempt to empathize, they may say that “everyone feels that way” or “I felt that way too at one point”. This comes across as dismissive and redirects the conversation away from where it should be.
If you reach out to loved ones in distress, it’s time to put your listening ears on. It’s time to listen to hear, not listen to respond.
We at Southern California Sunrise Recovery Center will always emphasize the importance of finding a good therapist. Even if you don’t suffer from mental illness, our trained team of professionals can help you.
Therapists can offer people better coping mechanisms and a clearer understanding of their mental state. They can help you navigate triggers, avoid relapses, and find ways to build your resilience to trauma. So, if you or someone you love struggles with suicidal ideation, finding a therapist is a great step.
Suicide prevention doesn’t end once someone gets off the phone with the local hotline. Even if someone seems to be stable for the moment, they’re still in an emotionally precarious position. Combine this continued instability with access to a method to commit suicide, and you have a recipe for tragedy.
So, if someone you know is suicidal, you should try to work with them to remove risky items like knives, guns, and scarves from their home. It may also be a good idea to limit their access to household cleaning chemicals and prescriptions, as self-poisoning is among the most common methods for someone to end their lives.
Recovering from a period of suicidal thoughts can be a long and difficult process. It’s not something that can occur overnight. And, like those who struggle with addiction, there will be relapses in thinking and behavior. The best way you can prevent suicide is by extending empathy and patience to those you know and love who are struggling.
If you suspect that someone you love is an immediate threat to their own safety, you can always call 911. This will send some police out to the person’s house to conduct an on-the-spot evaluation. This usually ends in a willing party being escorted to the hospital or involuntary hospitalization.
However, you should take great care when exercising this option, as involuntary hospitalization can prove extremely traumatizing. Worse, if someone struggles with a mental health condition and starts resisting when the police show up, their safety may not be guaranteed.
There’s a lot of misinformation about suicide in the media and on the web. Part of the reason why National Suicide Prevention Week began was to destigmatize the conversation surrounding this topic.
For the longest time, religious communities considered suicide a sin. Even now, it carries a certain amount of stigma. Worse, people fear that even discussing suicidality could make a depressed person outright suicidal. That’s why every year, from September 5th to September 11th, we bring the discussion on this dark and difficult topic to the forefront.
National Suicide Prevention Week may end on September 11th. However, the journey to mental health recovery continues year-round. If you’re dealing with suicidal ideation, depression, or any other mental health concern, you’re not alone.
Southern California Sunrise Recovery Center offers treatment programs for a wide variety of mental health conditions, from Anxiety to OCD to PTSD. Take some time to reach out to us today. Our team of trained professionals is standing by to help you reach a place of recovery and peace.