Suicide is one of the worst tragedies an individual can use on themselves and is one of the worst experiences for people who care about them. Suicide remains the leading cause of death among children and adults in the United States, and since hitting a low in 2000, cases have been rising in the U.S.
But knowing what risk factors and warning signs to look out for isn’t easy. There are often signs that are not always clear or easy to spot. Some people can hide their feelings and intentions very well, so let’s take a closer look at what suicidal behavior looks like so if a family member or loved one is showing signs of suicidal behaviors, you can take steps to get help.
If an individual is talking about wanting to die – either by suicide or other means – this is a strong warning sign that should considered seriously. It’s also possible that such comments are deliberately vulnerable expressions of discomfort, pain, boredom, or desire for closeness instead of a sign of actually wanting to die. But that does not mean you shouldn’t monitor the person who’s making them.
For instance, some individuals may say they feel like they have no reason to live, which is a more severe comment than expressing more common feelings of discomfort or boredom. Other people may talk about feeling like a burden on the people close to them, with comments like, “You don’t need me anymore” or “Things would improve if I just wasn’t here.” Younger people, like teenagers considering suicide, may not want their guardians to use their money for college, he added. All of those are strong signals to take their concerns seriously.
There are plenty of psychological factors and distressing situations that can increase the probability of someone considering, attempting, or dying by suicide, according to SAMHSA. These mood-based risks can’t cause or predict a suicide attempt, but being aware of them is crucial to potentially help:
- Hopelessness: If an individual doesn’t have a sense that the future will get better, or they just feel really unable to imagine not being in the pain that they’re in, that’s a substantial warning sign for suicide risk.
- Volatile Mood Swings: The likelihood of experiencing extreme mood swings increases in someone contemplating suicide. They may be really stressed or depressed, then suddenly seem calm or cheery, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. This individual could have decided to attempt suicide without communicating the desire to anyone, and they may even feel relieved by that.
Obsessive Focus on Death or Lethal Means
This sign is often more noticeable, such as if a loved one tells you they have purchased a gun. But many individuals may simply have artistic or musical interests that are more grim than others and may not be at risk. But if their engagement with those things surpasses what’s normal for them, that can be a strong sign of heightened risk. For instance, a person may start stockpiling pills without anyone noticing, which can be just as lethal as a firearm for suicide purposes. It’s crucial to keep aware of any lethal means someone you are concerned about may have access to.
Suicidal risk factors can include both the situations a person experiences and how the individual is feeling inside. While it may be easier to recognize situations and times when suicide is more likely, determining how someone is feeling inside based on life situations requires a little more investigative work. Certain conditions and situations are associated with an increased risk of suicide, including:
- Death or terminal illness of a family member or loved one
- Divorce, separation, or a relationship breakup
- Becoming unhealthy (either real or imagined)
- Loss of job, home, money, status, self-esteem, or personal security
- Drug or alcohol misuse
Familial or Personal History of Suicide
According to Michael Roesk, a clinical psychologist and senior director of the Newport Healthcare Center for Research & Innovation, The most reliable predictor of completed suicide is past suicide attempts. Based on Roesk’s expertise, the reason for that is because you’ll see an escalation in lethality, or the means by which someone does it over time. Additional personal and familial risk factors include:
- Professional or financial loss
- Loss of engagement in activities or school
- Long-term stress from other causes, including harassment or bullying
If a family member or loved one is not in imminent danger but is discussing suicide and showing risk factors for harming themselves, take their comments seriously. If you can, remove any objects that can be used in a suicide attempt. Encourage them to call – or call together – support services like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-(TALK) (1-800-273-8255). Conversations are with a skilled, trained counselor and are free and confidential and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Suicide and mental health hotlines are incredible resources, but one of the best options for an individual who is at risk for suicide is to seek professional help. A hotline is a more temporary emergency tool and cannot take the place of a therapist or counselor, professionally-prescribed medications, and other strategies that will help prevent a person from getting to a crisis point. If you’ve had limited success with other treatment methods in the past, transcranial magnetic stimulation treatment might be a great option for you.
Our facility is one of the first TMS centers in the area and one of the most experienced along the entire east coast. Reach out to contact us today!