Suicidal ideation is a term that describes a range of complications, wishes, and preoccupations with death and suicide. In some cases, these thoughts lead to planning and attempts on one’s own life. In 2019 alone, there were around 12 million Americans who seriously thought about attempting suicide. This figure only accounts for reported thoughts, so the actual number is likely much higher.
Unfortunately, when it comes to suicidal ideation, there is no one reason why someone has these thoughts. Nor is there any single reason why some people attempt suicide and why others don’t. Some of the most common risk factors may include:
- Traumatic or difficult life events such as physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
- Upsetting events such as the loss of a loved one or the end of romantic relationships or friendships.
- Drug or alcohol abuse.
- Isolation from others.
- Struggling with a co-occurring mental health condition, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
- Having a physical health condition.
- Financial struggles.
We can all experience suicidal thoughts at any point in our lives, so knowing the signs of suicidal ideation can help protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Knowing these signs can help pinpoint suicidal thoughts and plans within ourselves as well as others. If we notice them in ourselves, we can seek help through trained clinicians. If we notice them in our friends or families, we can open up communication and offer whatever support they need. Signs to look out for might include:
- Increasing anxiety or irritability.
- Becoming more outwardly confrontational.
- Isolating oneself from friends or family members.
- Experiencing intense mood swings.
- Reckless actions.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
- Having increased difficulty with responsibilities such as work, school, finances, or relationships.
- Saying negative things about oneself or idealizing death.
- Threatening to hurt or kill oneself.
- Preparing to end one’s life by giving personal belongings away or saying goodbye.
How to Offer Support
Though you can’t force people to get help, you can offer support and let them know that you’re there for them. You can empathize with them and try to understand their thoughts. Other ways to support these individuals include:
- Make sure to be non-judgemental if they do decide to talk to you.
- Listen to them actively.
- Ask if they’ve ever felt like this before.
- Reassure them that their feelings will not last forever.
- Help them focus on the present situation rather than the future.
- Assist them in finding a trained therapist or psychiatrist.
- If the situation is exacerbated by co-occurring conditions, encourage them to seek potential treatment centers that specialize in both.
What Not To Do
Because suicide is such a touchy subject, it is important to avoid accusing or demeaning loved ones’ feelings. Now is not the time to force your own opinions on them, but rather to reinforce that they are not alone and loved and valued.
If you say something to make them feel rejected, belittled, or alone, this may exacerbate their thoughts. Stay clear of saying things like, “Cheer up,” or, “You’ll get over this.” Don’t change the subject if they come to you with their thoughts, and it is important not to tell them that what they are feeling is silly or wrong.
Suicide Prevention Resources
The best thing that we can do is become informed and make sure that resources are easily accessible for all who are in need. To the extent that we become more informed and educated, we can reduce suicide deaths in the United States. There are so many resources out there that provide information, training, and hotlines for crisis situations. Having immediate access to them is essential.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
- Veterans Crisis Line – 1-800-273-8255
- The Crisis Text Line – Text START to 741-741 about any type of crisis 24/7.
Online Support Resources
Stop A Suicide Today: This is a helpful website that provides suicide prevention information for those experiencing suicidal thoughts. It can also help their friends and family.
SAVE: An advocacy organization that provides an array of resources to support suicide awareness and prevention.
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center: As their name implies, this is a hub for suicide prevention and mental health resources with multiple guides and links to further resources.
Darkness to Light: A child abuse prevention organization that aims to prevent the sexual abuse of children and provide help and support to those who have suffered or are currently suffering from this type of abuse. Call 866-367-5444 or Text LIGHT to 741741.
Safe Horizon: A non-profit organization that provides help and guidance for victims of sexual assault and trauma. They provide resources for those who have suffered from domestic abuse, child abuse, rape or sexual assault, human trafficking, stalking, and more.
Live Another Day: Features a comprehensive guide with information and resources that can assist people struggling with suicidal ideation to get the help they need.
SAMHSA’s Treatment Locator: National treatment locator that lists SAMHSA-approved mental health and addiction treatment centers.
Suicide Prevention Within the LGBTQ Community: Provides resources and support for at-risk youth.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Mike Smeth is a mental health advocate who is driven to make prevention and treatment resources accessible to as many people as possible. He’s always looking to connect with like-minded advocates via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Photo by Joice Kelly on Unsplash
The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios.
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