Knowing the Signs Someone is Suicidal

When it comes to someone you love or care about, it is important to know the signs that someone is considering suicide, having suicidal thoughts, or behaving suicidal. Even if you think that there is nothing you can do, this is not true. And with your help, you may be able to prevent a loved one from attempting the unthinkable. Knowing the signs someone is suicidal helps you help them and here is how to do exactly that and what to look out for in warning signs and risk factors.

Why Would Someone Want to Die by Suicide?

An important thing to know is that someone who is suicidal is not mentally ill simply based on that alone. Suicidal thoughts are not a sign of mental illness on its own, but is rather a symptom or consequence of mental health disorders – and ones that are treatable. These mental illnesses include those such as:

Statistics show that while instances of suicide attempts fell to a low in the year 2000, the numbers are rising again. The American Psychological Association:

The increase in the rate of death by suicide in the United States between 2000 and 2016, from 10.4 to 13.5 per 100,000 people, according to a National Center for Health Statistics analysis of data from the National Vital Statistics System.

There were alarming increases such as a 50 percent increase in women and girls and an over 20 percent increase in men and boys.

This still doesn’t necessarily explain why someone wants to die by suicide and with September being Suicide Awareness Month, it is important to answer this question, “Why would someone want to die by suicide?”

Why Do People Attempt Suicide?

There are many reasons a person may feel that they do not want to live any longer. This includes factors such as mental health disorders, traumatic stress, substance abuse, a loss or fear of loss, chronic pain, hopelessness, terminal illness, social isolation, and more. Sometimes certain things that cause these feelings cause other thoughts. For example, according to Very Well Mind:

A person with chronic pain or a terminal illness can also feel like a burden to others, as it becomes harder and harder to ask for yet another ride to the doctor’s office or more help with household duties or assistance paying for hospital bills. In fact, many people who decide to commit suicide often state that their loved ones or the world, in general, would be better off without them.

Some are crying out for help and yes, there are some who do it unintentionally. This could be due to an overdose or something like a choking game. But in focusing on the warning signs and those who want to die by suicide, the next area of this article will help you recognize some of these signs so you can help as best possible.

What Are the Signs Someone is Suicidal?

Before we look at the signs that someone is suicidal, there are risk factors to be aware of. None of these risk factors means that someone is likely to attempt suicide but they are important to be aware of. Especially if you feel that the person is showing warning signs, which will be discussed below.

The risk factors include:

  • A history of suicide in the family
  • Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. None of these mean that a person is definitely prone to suicide but they are risk factors, especially if left untreated.
  • Alcohol or substance abuse disorders
  • Attempts of suicide in the person’s history
  • A terminal illness
  • Chronic pain
  • Living with someone in chronic pain or with a terminal illness
  • Exposure to another suicide
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Stressful situations in life such as loss of a job, a relationship breakup, loss of a loved one, and more
  • Childhood abuse and trauma

None of these, as mentioned, are defining factors but if you are seeing some of the warning signs and know that your loved one has one or some of the risk factors, this is crucial to be aware of so that you can help to the best of your ability. In actuality, these signs are those that should be addressed no matter what. Those who have these warning signs are most likely suffering and help from someone who cares might be what is needed to help minimize some of the feelings of suicidal thoughts.

These are warning signs commonly known. And while you cannot always know what someone is thinking, these should give you an idea that something may be wrong.

  • Telling friends and family goodbye
  • Wanting to die or talking about it
  • Giving away their belongings
  • Discussing how there is no way out or a feeling of hopelessness for their situation
  • Becoming isolated or withdrawing socially
  • Talking about feeling shame or guilt
  • Discussing how others would be better off if they weren’t around
  • Discussing having no reason to exist

There are, of course, less apparent warning signs to take note of. These include:

  • Physical pain is one less apparent warning sign. Especially if there is not an outward reason such as an injury. Of course, physical pain may be due to a number of reasons but sometimes it is a more rare warning sign.
  • Another warning sign that can be due to suicidal thoughts is unusual changes in behavior. This can be mood swings or someone becoming a seemingly different person. Even one who is normally subdued who is suddenly happy and calm can be a sign. Just like with physical pain, it doesn’t always mean that is what is wrong but be aware of these changes if you see them.
  • Becoming emotionally distant can mean a variety of things. Yet, if someone you love or care about is exhibiting signs such as indifference or apathy, it may be depression but it may also mean thoughts of harming themselves.
  • Gathering lethal means is a term that means exactly how it sounds. If someone you care about is stockpiling pills, has bought a gun (when normally they would not have one) for example, this can be an indicator that they are having thoughts of harming themselves.
  • Sleep pattern changes are another slight indicator to be aware of, especially paired with a warning sign. This may also be a sign that they are dealing with depression and may not be a suicide indicator but no matter which one it is, both are a cause to be concerned.

What Can You Do?

One of the biggest — and most destructive — myths is that if you discuss suicide, you’re planting the idea in someone’s head, said Scott Poland, Ed.D, the prevention division director at the American Association of Suicidology and associate professor at Nova Southeastern University.

It is important that you talk with the person. Make sure that you listen well and they feel that they can share their thoughts with you without judgment. One of the most imperative things to do is to make sure you do not minimize what they are saying. It is not helpful to simply tell someone that things will get better or even worse, that they are overreacting. Instead, listen carefully and let them know that you are there for them.

If you see someone exhibiting the warning signs and you feel that there is a need, ask that person to talk to you. Offer your friendship or love and let them know that you are there for them no matter what. If you can, help them get the help they need. With counseling and someone to talk to in a professional capacity, they may be able to process their feelings in a healthy way. If their suicidal thoughts are due to a mental health disorder, then they can get help for that as well. The important thing is to be there for them and offer your help in a caring and compassionate way so that they know they are not alone.




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