If you or someone you love is feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800.273.8255.
Suicide can seem like a sudden act, but this public health issue often comes with warning signs. Even if they are subtle or hard to detect, recognizing the signs that someone is contemplating self-harm can be enough to save that person’s life. If you are concerned that someone you love is considering suicide or are concerned about your own mental health, here are some red flags you should watch out for.
Issues with substance abuse
One warning sign of suicide that may be easier to recognize than others is substance abuse. When someone is an addict, depression can be at the root of that addiction, and that depression can cause them to think about ending their life. Under the influence, an addict may think suicide is the best solution to solve their problems. It isn’t only illegal substances that can trigger a desire to die. Alcohol is connected to suicide and prescription drugs as well, so don’t be afraid to confront your loved ones if you see signs of addiction.
Untreated mental health issues
Mental health disorders, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, are often linked to suicidal thoughts. If someone close to you has a history of mental illness and is suddenly acting out of character, they could be thinking about taking their own life. Even if they aren’t acting in a particularly unusual way, you should still encourage them to seek help for their issues. Many people don’t realize that even lower-tier health insurance plans usually cover mental health care, and Medicare also has a variety of therapy and counseling options. Seniors who have Medicare Advantage plans also have coverage for prescription drugs, which can help with mental health issues. Advantage plans like those from providers like Humana can also cover wellness services and fitness centers, which can provide an additional form of therapy. If the cost of speaking with a professional is still a hindrance, reach out to a care provider with a need-based program, who may be willing to waive most or all of their fees.
Withdrawal from loved ones
Dropping out of social activities and choosing to be alone is a big warning sign of depression as well as thoughts of self-harm. If you notice a loved one begins to withdraw from hobbies, sports, or other social activities they once loved, try talking to them to see if they are struggling. Likewise, if your loved one begins to make vague references to “when I’m gone” or mentioning they are leaving without noting a destination, you should ask them point-blank of their intentions. Sometimes, these little clues are dropped as a thinly veiled cry for help.
Reckless activity, including reckless driving and sexual promiscuity, can indicate suicidal thoughts, especially when combined with factors such as depression and withdrawal. When someone is considering suicide, they don’t care about their life because they are planning on ending it. So, they act without consequence. If a friend or family member is acting out of character and exhibiting reckless behavior, sit down with them and see what’s going on in their life. If necessary, urge them to talk to a therapist.
Talking about suicide
This may seem obvious, but talking about suicide or recently becoming interested in suicide (or even death in general) can be a major warning sign. Spending hours on the computer researching suicide or reading books about it should cause concern. If someone talks about being a burden to others, feeling trapped, or experiencing pain, that may be a cry for help. Threatening suicide is also something that should be taken seriously, and you should call 911 immediately. Even if the person is not intending to act on those thoughts, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
If someone close to you is exhibiting one or more of these behaviors, they may be considering suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as, “When did you begin feeling this way?” and “What can I do for you right now?” Let your friend know they are not alone, and that even if you don’t understand their feelings, you want to help. Don’t beat around the proverbial bush, and be direct in your questioning. More than anything, never leave a person who is in real danger of hurting themselves alone. Call 911 if you believe they are in immediate danger.