This article discusses the effects of mental illness, self-harm and suicide. Please weigh your personal risks before reading further. If you or someone you know are in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741). These are free and confidential services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As a person who has spent time working in mental health as well as needing care in that area, I, like many of you, have been touched by suicide. I have supported friends through very dark moments of suicidal ideation as well as through the grief of losing parents, friends, and children to suicide. I have considered suicide an option in moments of agony as an emotionally disregulated teen with ADHD and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and, again, as a young mother due to to postpartum depression. I would venture to say that everyone has been touched in some way by suicide.
Those who have experienced the heartache of losing a loved one who took their own life know the overwhelming and confusing emotions it can induce. Suicide typically occurs as an impulsive act, but there are risk factors and warning signs that indicate a deeper underlying problem exists. Suicide occurs when several internal and external factors come to a head simultaneously, leading a troubled individual to make the most severe of decisions.
While it is normal for people of all ages to experience sadness from time to time, it’s important to recognize when sadness escalates beyond normalcy and moves in the direction of suicidal intent.
How to Promote Wellness
One way to prevent suicide from happening is to recognize depression and move toward investing in personal self-care. When I start feeling out-of-sorts, I start by checking in with my basic needs.
“Have I eaten recently?”
Allowing my blood sugar to drop below normal levels quickly creates mood disregulation. You might know this as being “hangry.” I react strongly to my circumstances when I have not eaten. The same goes for dehydration.
“Have I had enough water today?”
“Do I need to use the bathroom?”
This question may sound silly but in our ADHD household, our executive disfunction sometimes prevents us from noticing that this basic need is the thing making us uncomfortable.
“Have I taken my vitamins and/or medication today?”
If you, like me, rely on medication for physical or mental health, be sure to take it consistently. Skipping doses can cause many unwanted side effects. If you are taking your medication consistently and still experiencing uncomfortable or dangerous side effects, contact your doctor right away.
“Have I taken a moment to be alone with God today?”
Spirituality, prayer, and mindfulness can go a long way toward mental and physical wellness. “Have I spent time doing something for myself today?”
Many of us have jobs and lifestyles that require us to take care of others but leave us little time or energy to do the things we enjoy. Its It’s important to prioritize our hobbies and needs. “Have I spoken with another adult today?” Communication with peers can go a long way in preventing loneliness.
By focusing on creating wellness for ourselves, we can avoid giving in to negative and destructive behaviors and actively work toward a healthy mental state. Take steps to alleviate stress where you can. If you need to reduce financial strain, for instance, refinancing your home loan can help or using a budgeting app to better your ability to keep track of bills and expenses could help you feel more stable and secure. For more financial guidance, visit my friend, Jim McKinley at MoneywithJim.org.
For many, the workplace or specific job assignment is a major source of stress. ZenBusiness notes that more than half of Americans are dissatisfied with their job. But there are some simple strategies that can reduce job-related stress, including slowing down, making sure your food and water intake is adequate, and changing your routine to eliminate monotony. Even beginning to look for a new job to better fit your personality and lifestyle can give you hope for a better future.
The Link between Mental Illness and Suicide
The majority of suicides occur to people who have long been facing some form of mental illness. Common mental conditions that can trigger suicidal ideation include: depression, anxiety, addiction, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and side effects of medication to treat some of these conditions. Over time, the symptoms brought on by these illnesses can lead us to make impulsive, and self-destructive decisions such as suicide and self-harm.
There are a number of onsets for clinical anxiety and depression. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance of serotonin within the brain. This, combined with external factors such as stress, loss, trauma and even seasonal changes can lead us to experience severe depression.
Depression and anxiety can feel like an inescapable ailment, one that offers no relief to those inflicted. After suffering through chronic depression, it can feel like there is no escape. That is one reason people can turn to acts of self-harm and suicide as a way to escape the constant feelings of doubt, insecurity and hopelessness.
Risk Factors & Warning Signs
Mental illnesses are considered to be risk factors for suicide. Individuals who face severe bouts of depression and anxiety are more likely to make that final impulsive decision. Although there is no fail-proof indication that you or someone close to you might commit suicide, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention points out that there are warning signs that can help us recognize that something needs to be addressed.
There are certain behaviors that can also be an indication of potential suicide, notes Medical News Today, especially when an individual at-risk begins acting erratically. When someone shows signs of withdrawal, mood swings, or begins acting violently, there may be cause for alarm. Additionally, people who suddenly turn to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism may be inching closer to making an attempt at suicide. Sometimes, verbal cues can clue us into possible suicidal behavior such as vocal expressions of feeling hopeless, trapped or not having a will to live.
How to Take Action
When you begin to notice patterns of speech, behavior and mood that suggest a possible suicide attempt, you need to address the patterns with the troubled individual and immediately seek out help in order to prevent suicide from occurring. The first best response is talking. Oftentimes, a person on the edge simply needs to be able to be heard. Give your ear first and stay by their side. Once the immediate threat has passed, you need to seek the help of professionals to better assess and handle the delicate situation.
No one should go through depression and anxiety alone. If you, or someone close to you, are currently at risk, remember that there is strength in numbers. No matter how alone you may feel, there is someone out there who cares and loves you.
If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
Make a Safety Plan.
Consider Online Counseling.
Join a Support Group.
Build a Support Network.
Try this Bible Study on Hopelessness.
Special thanks to my friend, Jim McKinley for his help in writing this article.