Is Someone You Know a Suicide Risk?

In Population Health by Melissa HowardLeave a Comment

How to Identify If Someone Is at Risk of Suicide

Suicide affects everyone. It is not restricted to a specific demographic, race, gender, or age group. The pain and suffering it causes within communities are universal. It can be a difficult topic to discuss, but treating it as a taboo subject increases the stigma around it, and can prevent those with suicidal thoughts from seeking help. Building awareness and breaking down that stigma is a key factor in ensuring those who need help, get help.

It’s More Common than You Think

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, some statistics indicate suicide is a cause of death in the United States. Not only is it a routine occurrence, but there is also no single cause for suicide. Instead, there usually is a variety of contributing factors, such as combined stressors, health issues, and other problems creating a feeling of hopelessness and despair. The majority of attempts are conducted by people experiencing some form of depression or mental health disorder. For about every 25 attempts, there is a death.

Recognizing the Signs

Though it is difficult to recognize yourself as at-risk, it is possible to do so. If you have suicidal or harmful thoughts, have a sudden loss of interest in activities that used to bring you joy, you might be at risk. Other indicators include difficulty sleeping or eating, a sense of feeling trapped, hopeless, or without a reason to live. If any of those issues sound like your own personal struggle, it’s crucial to get help. You can contact a suicide hotline and talk to someone any time, day or night, at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433), or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). 

It’s necessary for friends, family members, and communities to recognize the signs someone is in trouble as well, and take action if so. If someone you know talks about wanting to die, talks about feeling hopeless or a lack of reason to live or assembles the means for death such as weapons or pills, they are at immediate risk.

Other serious risks include talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain, being a burden to others, an increase of substance abuse, sudden mood swings, and sudden withdrawal from normal activities. 

What Can You Do?

If you suspect a loved one or someone you know is considering hurting themselves, it is important to approach them with love and keep an open mind. Experts recommend addressing your concerns directly.  Ask them if they are thinking of harming themselves, speaking gently and without judgment. Express your concern and assist them in seeking help. If you believe they are in immediate danger, stay with them, remove any harmful objects, and call 911.

Another way you can assist is to help your friend or loved one determine if psychological evaluations or depression screenings are covered by their insurance policy. For example, if your loved one is a senior enrolled in a Medicare Advantage program, they have access to one free depression screening every year. Medicare also covers certain counseling programs, which can be benefits for seniors who are struggling with the symptoms of depression.

The Role of Alcohol and Substance Abuse

According to Psychology Today, those with substance abuse are six times more likely to commit suicide. The rate of depression, the most common factor in suicides, is two to four times higher among addicts. Many people turn to alcohol and substance abuse to help cope with depression. In others, the abuse may be what triggers the depression. Drugs and alcohol can create a false illusion of help, while actually creating more problems that can deepen someone’s mental health issue, thus driving them closer to suicide.

Accepting Treatment

No one should be ashamed of seeking help. Treatment programs typically require people to recognize they cannot recover alone. The first step toward recovery is admitting oneself into the program. Once there, those in treatment receive around-the-clock treatment. Patients receive multilayered support and treatment, including isolation and protection, guidance and therapy for their mental health needs, and group meetings to share their experiences.

Suicide is preventable, and it’s important to break down the stigma surrounding it. Learn to recognize the signs so you can take appropriate action when there is a problem. Do not hesitate to get the proper help for yourself or someone else.

Melissa Howard

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