Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, killing 128 people every day (one person approximately every 11 minutes). For each death, another 25 people attempt suicide.
The following signs can help you identify a person who might be at risk for suicide:
More than half of the time, a suicidal person is experiencing depression. Clinical depression is a serious medical illness affecting mood, concentration, activity level, interests, appetite, behavior and physical health.
A-ALCOHOL AND DRUG USE INCREASES
Alcohol and drugs may seem like a good way to manage difficult feelings and situations, however, substance use usually acts to mask the underlying problem which grows worse because it’s not being addressed. Alcohol is a depressant and it reduces judgment and impulse control – a lethal combination for someone who is considering self-harm.
People contemplating suicide are feeling overwhelmed and powerless to get better or to change their circumstances. The feeling is often a symptom of a mental health condition (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia); a serious or chronic health condition (such as cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s or other); extremely stressful life events (such as a death, divorce, job/financial loss); or prolonged exposure to abuse, harassment or bullying.
Frequently, those with suicidal plans activate a “living will” by allocating cherished objects, positions, activities and relationships to others. In some cases the person will behave in ways to push loved ones away because they would be “better off without him/her” and feel this will lessen the pain for their loved ones when they are gone.
People contemplating suicide often pull away from friends, family and social activities they normally enjoy. The individual often feels different than others and uncomfortable in groups. Also, isolation serves as a means to distance themselves from the pain of ultimate separation.
R-RAGE, RISKY & RESTLESS
Some who are experiencing depression or suicidal thinking exhibit a spectrum of anger-related and/or risky behaviors, including irritability, no sense-of-humor, short fuse, ranting, road rage, aggression, abusive or controlling behavior, driving too fast, having promiscuous sex, abusing drugs or alcohol, and gambling.
When a person is experiencing some or many of these danger signs, it is very difficult to reach out and ask for help. Not having anyone notice or reach out to them confirms their worst fears. But, reaching out to the person can help put them on the path to recovery. Don’t be afraid to ask the person if they are thinking about suicide.
If you or someone you know struggles with thoughts of suicide, now is the right time to seek help. In a crisis, where someone is in immediate danger, call 911. If you are in a state of crisis you can call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988. The Suicide Prevention Hotline has a network of more than 200 crisis centers with trained mental health experts who provide help 24/7.
If you, or someone you know, are not in crisis, but in need of someone to talk to, send an email to me, Mark Jacobson, at firstname.lastname@example.org or a letter to 559 W. Broadway St., Winona, MN 55987.
Material for this editorial has been provided by Mark Jacobson, a peer support specialist, Winona, Minn. and the staff at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services out of Grand Rapids, Mich.