A person who shows suicidal tendencies is neither weak nor an escapist. He or she is overwhelmed and desperate. Suicide is not a mental problem. It is the tragic result of social, personal, financial, and psychological issues that a suicidal person is not able to cope with.
Who is most at risk of committing suicide?
Studies show that suicide rates are highest in teens, young adults, and the elderly. Mental illness such as major depression, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders increases the risk of suicide. Substance use and eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia nervosa may also make the patient suicidal. And trauma or major life crises may also trigger suicidal tendencies. These include loss of a loved one, divorce or break-up, financial problems, career troubles, and diagnosis of a serious illness.
The following groups of people have a higher risk of committing suicide:
- People who attempted suicide in the past
- People who have a family history of suicide
- Older people who lost a spouse through death or divorce
- People in stressful professions, such as the police. Healthcare workers dealing with terminally ill patients are also more at risk.
- People who have a history of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- Unmarried, unskilled, or unemployed people
- People suffering from long-term pain or some disabling or terminal illness
- Friend, family member, or co-worker of someone who committed suicide
- People who have substance abuse problems
- People who often indulge in violent or impulsive behavior
- People who have recently been discharged from a psychiatric hospitalization
What are the warning signs that a person is suicidal?
A person showing one or more of the following warning signs may be suicidal:
- Extreme sadness and mood swings: The person remains sad over a prolonged time and is prone to moodiness, rage, and irritability.
- Hopelessness: The suicidal person has lost all hope. They don’t expect their miserable circumstances to change or anything better to happen in their future.
- Withdrawal and loss of interest: A person who has lost interest in life prefers to be alone and avoids friends and social interactions. This symptom may indicate depression, which is a major cause of suicide. Depressed people also lose interest in the activities they previously enjoyed. Instead, they prefer spending time in activities that require minimal effort.
- Sleep problems: Suicidal people are tortured by their thoughts and have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Difficulty in sleeping may also indicate depression.
- Changes in personality and/or appearance: A suicidal person may start exhibiting unusual behavior. Their manner and attitude may change. The person may also become less concerned about his or her appearance. Some may try to bring about a change in their mood by changing their appearance, like adopting a new hairstyle.
- Self-harmful behavior: Suicidal people often exhibit potentially dangerous behavior, such as reckless driving, and engaging in other unsafe activities. They may also start using drugs or consuming excessive alcohol because they no longer value their life.
- Suicidal statements: Research shows that 50% to 75% of people considering suicide give a warning sign to someone close to them. They may make statements such as, “You will miss me when I’m gone” or “All my troubles will be over soon.” However, as these hints are mostly vague, they often get ignored. Also, not every suicidal person gives such hints to their near ones.
- Sudden calmness: A person considering suicide may suddenly become calm and even cheerful after a long period of sadness and depression. This is a sign that the person has decided to end his or her life.
- Making preparations: A person who has decided to commit suicide will also become active in putting his or her personal and financial affairs in order. They may visit their family and friends for the last farewell. They may give away their clothes and other personal possessions. They will make their will and complete other necessary financial transactions. They will also purchase the means of committing suicide, such as a gun or poison.
How to prevent suicide?
There’s no surefire way to prevent suicide. People who want to die may attempt suicide repeatedly, till they succeed. The only thing you can do is to know the risk factors and be alert to the warning signs. This will help you to recognize when someone near you turns suicidal. And then you can take steps to comfort them and prevent suicide.
What should you do if you believe someone is suicidal?
People who receive timely support from their friends and family are less likely to act on their suicidal impulses. And if someone is battling with a mental problem like depression, getting the proper treatment helps. Here are some more things you can do if you notice someone is at risk of committing suicide:
- Ask the person if he or she is sad or thinking about suicide.
- Find out if the person she is consulting a therapist or taking medication.
- If your friend or family member is depressed, make them understand depression is treatable. And that they will be free of it soon if they take their medicines regularly.
- Assure the troubled person that he or she is loved and cared for by many. And encourage him or her to seek professional help.
- If you think someone is in immediate danger of committing suicide, don’t leave the person alone. Take the help of friends and family members to ensure constant company for the suicidal person. Take away any weapon or other things that the person may use for self-harm. Try to calm down the troubled person, and get them professional medical and psychological help.
- If you know someone who may be suicidal, you can also consult suicide helplines. You can find the helpline numbers for India HERE.