Although September is considered Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, any time is a good time to care for our & our family/friend's mental health and emotion state. This blog post comes from Melissa Howard, a suicide prevention advocate (stopsuicide.info).
Suicide is a preventable cause of death. When you or a loved one is struggling, it’s important to remain alert to warning signs. Be aware of key indicators so you can act when there is a need for intervention.
A serious concern. Suicide is a significant cause of preventable deaths in Canada, with over 100,000 lives lost to suicide in 2009 alone. According to some studies, nine out of ten of those deaths stemmed from mental health issues. Oftentimes suicides are preceded by events such as relationship breakups, major health issues, job loss, or financial troubles, and for every suicide resulting in death, approximately 20 more people attempt to take their own lives.
Linked with addiction. A number of mental health concerns correlate with increased risk for suicide, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Those same concerns are linked with substance abuse. Those with dual diagnosis—meaning suffering from both a mental health issue and substance abuse issue—are at a higher risk for self-harm. Some experts note that because substances can create exaggerated “highs,” users may have altered perceptions of happiness. Along those same lines, after drugs wear off, a user’s body can reach an equal but opposite “low” feeling. These chemical alterations in the brain can change perceptions and create increased feelings of depression and hopelessness.
Hopelessness. According to Psych Central, those who are suicidal experience feelings of utter futility. They believe life will not improve and feel there is no hope for the future regardless of what happens. Any indicators someone is considering self-harm should be taken seriously.
Signs to watch. Here are key warnings someone is at risk for suicide:
● Withdrawal from relationships
● Moving from severe depression to a sense of peace
● Dramatic mood swings
● Relinquishing personal possessions
● Garnering supplies such as weapons or drugs
● Noticeable increase in substance abuse
● Discussing a desire to die, either directly or indirectly
● Talking about or writing about death or suicide
● Past attempts at self-harm
● Impulsive and unusual self-destructive behavior, such as promiscuity, dangerous driving, or binges (spending sprees, drug binges, etc.)
● Emotional emptiness
Intervention. If this sounds like someone you know, take steps to intervene. Psychology Today suggests asking directly if your loved one is contemplating suicide. It’s important to be open and supportive; validate your loved one’s feelings without being judgemental, and don’t attempt to “fix” things. If your loved one is considering suicide, be present either physically or via the phone. Ensure your loved one’s safety and connect him or her with a crisis centre. Professional help is indispensable if you or a loved one is considering suicide. Crisis centres are available throughout Canada and can be accessed anytime, day or night.
Emotional wellness. Improving emotional wellness is a key to preventing suicide. Some experts describe emotional wellness as:
● Coping with stress in healthy manners
● Maintaining an optimistic perspective
● Acceptance of the range of feelings one experiences in life
● Adaptability to change
● Capability of enjoying life
● Effectively managing emotions
Develop connections. Those struggling with thoughts of suicide benefit from developing a support network and feelings of connectedness. Continue to offer support and reach out if your loved one is struggling. Also, it’s important to connect with a professional if you or a loved one struggles with emotional wellness. Even if suicide is not currently an issue, improving wellness can help prevent tragedy and improves quality of life.
Don’t wait. If you or a loved one is struggling with thoughts of suicide, reach out for help. Be aware of the links with substance abuse, watch for warning signs, and intervene when you have concerns. Improve emotional wellness and develop connections toward a healthy support network. Don’t allow you or your loved one to become a statistic.