How to Tell if Your Loved One is at Risk of Suicide by Melissa Howard

No community or demographic is immune to suicide. Its pain and suffering are known to everyone, which is why it is so important to talk openly about it. Keeping suicide in the dark only increases the stigma around it, and can make it difficult for those who are at risk to seek help. But suicide is preventable.

Suicide Does Not Discriminate

It does not matter your age, race, gender, or social status; there are at-risk people in every demographic. In fact, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists suicide as the tenth leading cause of death in the united states. For those 15-34 years of age, suicide jumps to the second leading cause of death.

Often, an at-risk person suffers from poor mental health or turns toward substance abuse. They are too close to themselves to see the signs. Unfortunately, this means that it is up to family and friends to recognize the problem and know when to step in.

Why Some Turn to Suicide

While depression often plays a large role in suicide, it is not the sole cause. Only 54 percent of people who have committed suicide were diagnosed with a mental illness. Those experiencing relationship problems or financial struggles can also be at risk, as well as those going through an unprecedented change or sudden loss.

Do not underestimate the role alcohol and drugs play in suicide, either. Psychology Today reports that one in three victims commits suicide while under the influence. Many turn toward substance abuse as a stress-relief tactic, but it only worsens the problem. It deepens depression and takes a toll on the body and mind, increasing the risk of suicide.

Learn the Signs

Before you confront anyone with your concerns, learn the signs. It is a good idea to closely monitor their behavior for a few days and consult other friends and family to see if they have noticed these signs as well. Look for dramatic mood swings, shifts in behavior, and withdrawal from people and activities they used to enjoy. If they talk about feeling hopeless, wanting to die, or being in unbearable pain, they may be at immediate risk.

Open a Conversation

If you suspect a loved one or someone you know of seeking to harm themselves, you will want to approach them with love and an open mind. You do not want them to shut down and shut you out while you are expressing your concerns because you said the wrong thing.

Pick a time when you two will be able to talk uninterrupted. If they have substance abuse issues, try to start a conversation when they have not been using. It may help you to talk to a counselor beforehand to learn more about their addiction and how you can help discourage them from using by removing enabling factors, such as handling their bills.

Once you’ve selected a time to speak, gently ask your loved one if they are thinking of harming themselves, and emphasize how much you care for them. Most importantly, listen and be genuine. Too often, those contemplating suicide feel isolated or unheard, and you do not want to reinforce this idea in their head.

What to Do if They Refuse Help

Unfortunately, a person will sometimes refuse help. Recognize that you have your limitations, but do what you can. The best you can do is to continue to be there for them. Offer help and provide them with helpful resources; knowing you are there can sometimes be enough, and they may come around later on. If you believe they are at immediate risk, remove all sharp and dangerous objects from them, and call for help.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide is preventable. However, too often, there is a stigma around seeking help. If you suspect a loved one of being at risk, the best thing you can do is emphasize your love and support for them. Let them know they can turn to you.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Written by: Melissa Howard

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