Life has been harder than ever these past few years. Generations of people who never experienced war, plague, or globally traumatic events (in combination with those who have and are adding another to their roster) are now being subject to traumatic experiences that they'd only read about in history books. An unfortunate, but very real, response to feeling so lost and afraid in your life can be to end it all-together.
Suicide itself is the act of taking your own life. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 15-24. In 2020 alone, 46,000 Americans died by suicide.
With the normal stressors and anxieties compounding with the global state, it is important to understand suicide, some common 'reasonings' behind it, and warning signs for those you love - or even for yourself.
Suicide ideation is the beginning step to the actual act of committing suicide - it's the planning phase. How, where, when? Suicide ideology is not when you're driving down the street and consider launching off a parked tow truck - or the random thoughts to drive off the side of the mountain when you are on a nice drive with your family. Those are intrusive thoughts! Now, if you were to plan to drive up to the mountains alone and intentionally drive off a cliff - that would be suicide ideation.
There can be plenty of signs that ideation is occurring, but often times it's harder to spot in another person unless they share their plans with you. It is something to pay attention to, closely, within yourself as well. Try to keep an eye out for:
Previous suicide attempts
Expressions of hopelessness, or helplessness
Giving away valued possessions
Lack of interest in future plans
"You'd be better off without me"/"Maybe I won't be around" statements
Any of the signs above individually does not mean that someone is thinking about suicide. However, multiple symptoms displayed together could mean a cry for help.
8 out of 10 people who are considering suicide will give some kind of sign of their intention. Talking about suicide is not a typical response to stress. All talk should be taken seriously, and should be addressed right away.
So how can you help if you've realized a friend is suicidal?
Trust your instincts that this person is in trouble.
Talk with them - it is important that you listen to them as well.
Ask them direct questions - but make sure not to be judgmental! Determine whether or not this person has a specific plan (have they finished their ideologies, and now it's go-time?) The more detail they have, the greater the risk.
Don't act shocked by their behavior, or judgmental.
Do not take it upon yourself to counsel the person.
Do not swear to secrecy, or leave the person alone.
Get professional help, even if the person resists.
Next Steps to Ideology Treatment
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to suicidal therapy. Most commonly, a combination of talk therapy and medication are utilized to help balance the brain chemicals, and promote better mental health. Cognitive talk therapy and behavioral change therapies aim to show the patient solutions to their problems by providing new ways to think about themselves within the world.
Therapists will often assign 'homework' for patients to act on outside of their therapy sessions. It is extremely important that the patient be doing most of the work - they have to build their will of life without only relying on outside sources. Your therapist is not your link to survival! These homework assignments will be beneficial to learning that, even if the patient fails.
Research also shows that medication can be used to treat the underlying depression that is directly associated with suicide. Antidepressant medications affect the chemical pathways in the brain, and therefore assist in altering your mood. Antidepressant medication is not physically addictive, which is good news with regard to having to take it daily. However, it does often come with adverse side effects, such as insomnia, sexual problems, and fatigue. These side effects usually only take a few weeks to iron out, and by the 6-8 week period the medication will be fully active within your system.
The use of antidepressant medication should only be done with the proper supervision of a medical professional. This is due to reactions taking place with other daily medications you may be on, as well as your own chemical balances and the severity of your depression. Alcohol and other drugs can also negatively interact with antidepressant medication, so it is important to discuss with a doctor to make sure you're on the right path. Never discontinue medication use without consulting your doctor first, as the chemical changes this causes can also have adverse reactions with your mental stability and health.
Remember: suicide does not only affect those with a predetermined condition.
If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org. You can also reach Crisis Text Line by texting MHA to 741741.
988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: 988
The TrevorLifeline for LGBTQIA+ Youth : 1-866-488-7386⠀
Crisis Text Line : Text 'MHA' to 741741
Disaster Distress Helpline: Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
Veterans Crisis Line: Dial 988 and Press 1
Warmlines (For those who aren't in crisis, but still want to talk to someone): http://www.warmline.org
Dial 211 : 211 provides callers with information about and referrals to social services for every day needs and in times of crisis. Learn more: https://www.helplinecenter.org/
Find MHA in your area: https://arc.mentalhealthamerica.net/find-an-affiliate
SAMHSA Treatment Locator: https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov
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