This week is suicide prevention week. It is hard for people to ask for help when they are depressed frequently, even harder when they are suicidal. Depression has a way of twisting people’s thinking when it gets really bad. People can convince themselves that loved ones are actually better off without them. Friends and family often sense their suffering but are at a loss of how to help, or those suffering may still put on a good outward show while not giving off clues to their true feelings. People may not ask someone who is depressed if they are having thoughts about suicide because they are afraid they will put those thoughts in their head, or sometimes because they don’t really want to believe that things are that bad and they don’t know how to help.
The first step to preventing suicide is to realize that depression is a medical condition that has treatments. Treatment can be with counseling or medication or with a combination of the two. Counselors or psychologists typically provide the counseling and family physicians or psychiatrists typically prescribe the medications. However, sometimes in a moment of crisis someone may not be able to get an appointment to be seen soon enough and it is hard to know where to turn.
The next step is to realize that asking someone if they are suicidal, doesn’t cause them to become suicidal. It is important to have an idea of what to do if someone reveals to you that they are feeling this way and to have an idea of possible signs to recognize that someone is feeling this way. It is also important to realize that just because someone doesn’t ask for help doesn’t mean they don’t want it. Frequently people may not actually want to die, they may just want the pain to go away.
The following are some signs that people may show if their depression has reached the point where they are feeling suicidal:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Extreme mood swings
- Putting affairs in order and giving away possessions
- Saying goodbye to family and friends
- A mood shift from despair to calm
The following are risk factors for suicide:
- A family history of suicide.
- Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
- Intoxication. More than one in three people who die from suicide are found to be currently under the influence.
- Access to firearms.
- A serious or chronic medical illness.
- Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
- A history of trauma or abuse.
- Prolonged stress.
- Age. People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
- A recent tragedy or loss.
- Agitation and sleep deprivation.
If you or a loved one you know is having serious thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else – this is a psychiatric emergency. The same way I would ask you to go to the ER if you think you are having a heart attack to be seen, I recommend that you either call 911, go to the nearest emergency room or if you are in Northern Kentucky you can call North Key’s ACCESS 24hr emergency hot line 859-331-3292 for emergent help if you are having a psychiatric emergency. People can also call a suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact a suicide text hotline by texting “Connect” to 741741.
Help is out there. There is hope. Things will get better. You are not alone.
#BeThe1To Ask. Keep Them Safe. Be There. Help Them Connect. Follow Up.
***Note *** This post, like all my other posts, is for general medical information only and is not to be taken as direct advice. Please consult your personal physician for more information.