It’s safe to say that there’s not a person alive who hasn’t, at one time or another, experienced feelings of sadness, loneliness, and for some, depression. But for some people, those feelings absolutely and completely overwhelm them to the point of total despair and hopelessness. This alone would be cause enough for concern – a reason for any loved one witnessing this kind of pain to urge the sufferer to seek help.
But too often those who experience feelings of hopelessness – this sense that there is “no way out” – suffer silently or resort to attempting suicide. According to recent data available on MentalHealth.gov, 112 people die by suicide every day in the United States, making it the second-leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 24 – but no age group is immune.
As hopeless as those contemplating suicide may feel, there is hope for those who seek to prevent suicide – and that is to recognize its warning signs.
Suicide Warning Signs
In addition to more obvious red flags, like someone actually talking about suicide, there are a number of other cues that someone close to you may be contemplating suicide:
- Talking about death, having no reason to live, feeling trapped, or being a burden to other people
- Obtaining items that could be used to commit suicide, such as a weapon or drugs
- Withdrawing from social contact and ending relationships
- Behaving recklessly or with a “what have I got to lose?” attitude
- Drinking unusually excessively or abusing drugs
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Tying up loose ends, such as giving away belongings, making a will, or saying goodbye to people in a way that feels permanent
- Extreme mood swings and personality changes – and even a sudden sense of calm about the decision to bring things to an end
A Better Solution
There’s a saying: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” And while it’s wrong to think of suicide as a solution at all, for those who contemplate it, there may seem to be no other. That makes it especially important for you, as a family member, friend, or coworker, to take action when you suspect someone you know may be suicidal.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-271-8255 for free access to trained crisis workers who can help – or if you see someone in immediate danger, call 911.
Suicide is preventable. Taking care of both your physical and mental health, and encouraging those around you to do the same, can go a long way toward preventing depression and the suicidal thoughts and actions that can accompany it. Be sure to schedule a doctor appointment for yourself if you experience depression – or for a loved one if you see any signs of depression.
Dr. Shane Magee is a board-certified Internal Medicine physician who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Tanglewood Clinic. His clinical interests include hypertension, diabetes, and care of chronic conditions.