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Warning Signs of a Suicidal Person
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released the shocking statistic that death by suicide is up 25% in the United States from 1999, across most ethnic and age groups. These numbers point to a crisis; however, many are unsure what’s creating it. While technically not a medical condition, suicide is closely tied to numerous mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression, and schizophrenia. In addition, those with substance abuse problems or compulsive addictions such as sex or gambling show a higher than average rate of suicide or attempted suicide.
Suicide was the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States in 2016. It was the second-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34 and the fourth-leading cause among people ages 35 to 54.
While there is no data to support that suicide has a genetic link, a history of mental illness is linked to genetics. This link between mental illness such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others can often explain why some families are affected by multiple members committing – or attempting – suicide.
Very few suicide cases are documented in which the family or friends saw no warning signs whatsoever. Individuals considering suicide often display telltale behaviors that – when recognized – could lead to successful suicide prevention. Here are a few common signs that your loved one may have suicidal tendencies (note that many of these are general warning signs of mental illness and may not be directly related to suicide):
- Talking about wanting to die, or how they’d kill themselves.
- Using language like “after I’m gone.”
- Talk of being a burden to others.
- Feeling trapped or as if they’re experiencing constant mental pain.
- Increasing use of drugs or alcohol.
- Behaving recklessly, anxious, or agitated.
- Changes in sleep patterns such as sleeping too much, or too little.
- Isolating themselves from friends or loved ones.
- Displaying extreme moody behavior.
- Talking about not having a reason to live.
- Feeling hopeless about the future.
Therapy to prevent suicide is essential in treating the core issues – often depression or other mental illness – and providing proof that the suicidal person does indeed have a reason to live. Professionals often use the “SAD PERSONS” scale, which helps them to identify a risk of suicidal behavior.
The SAD PERSONS scale is as follows:
- Previous suicide attempt or mental illness diagnosis
- Excessive drinking or alcohol abuse
- Rational thinking lost
- Separated, divorced, widowed
- Organized suicide plan or previous attempt
- No – or little – social support
- Sickness or chronic medical illness
While all talk of suicide is serious, this scale often identifies risk in those that haven’t previously vocalized their thoughts of suicide.
Therapy sessions and prescription medication – commonly antidepressants – are often the prescribed course of action to treat not only the thoughts of suicide but the root cause as well. In extreme cases, or in those that have displayed past intent to commit suicide, the therapist may recommend the patient seek treatment in a 24-hour care facility. This way they can better monitor mood and behavior patterns that the therapist can miss while outside of regular therapy sessions.
Why Hire a Therapist?
For people who are concerned about a friend, relative or co-worker who may be at risk for suicide, there is a strong message of hope in the fact that there are now several good, effective treatments available to help suicidal people learn the skills to stay alive. These new discoveries, paired with new methods of outreach, have made many professionals increasingly optimistic about our ability to help save lives.
Due to the extreme nature of suicide, or any instance of self-harm, seeking help from a professional could make a huge difference in a person’s life. Suicidal thoughts are often the symptom of a much deeper issue and only a mental health professional can accurately assess the situation and deal with the root cause. The symptoms don’t often manifest themselves just once; it’s an ongoing struggle that needs professional guidance in order to accurately evaluate risk and deal with each occurrence as they come up. Find a caring therapist near you by searching the TherapyTribe Directory.
What to Look for When Seeking Help
When looking for help, it’s important to choose a therapist that you can trust and connect with. In order to open up and accurately describe how you’re feeling, the causes of these feelings (if known) and any underlying mental health issues or stressors that could contribute is of the utmost importance. Most therapists have experience with depression and are well-versed in dealing with suicidal patients.
There is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available 24/7, where people can call to get help (1-800-273-8255). They have added an online chat feature as well. Almost every suicidal person is ambivalent about his or her suicide. What we can do as friends, relatives, co-workers or acquaintances is reach out, show that we care and help these people get the help they need to stay alive. If you’ve lost someone, there are survivor resources to help you cope.
If you or someone you know may be suicidal call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255.
- Lea Winerman (2019, January). By the numbers: An alarming rise in suicide Suicide rates in the United States have increased substantially over the past two decades. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/01/numbers
- Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. (2013, September). Suicide Prevention: The Treatment that Works Getting suicidal individuals to the help they need. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201309/suicide-prevention-the-treatment-works
- Schreiber J, et al. (2018, October). Suicidal ideation and behavior in adults. Retrieved April 3, 2019, from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search