Individuals with a history of substance misuse, self-injury, suicidal thoughts, or other mental health issues have a higher risk of attempting suicide. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States and a major public health concern.” If someone you love has a painful history and struggles with suicidal ideation, you can support them by educating yourself and actively listening to their concerns.
The Dangers of Self-Harming Behaviors
Not everyone who purposely harms themselves or talks of harming themselves has suicidal tendencies or intentions. Sometimes these actions and thoughts are maladaptive coping mechanisms for dealing with stress, pain, and emotional distress. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health reports that “Identifying self-harm behaviors and treating it early could be the first step in managing potential suicidal behaviors among those who engage in self-harm.” Recognizing the signs of self-harm allows you to take steps to support your loved one.
Signs of Suicidal Thoughts or Behaviors
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States, with 45,979 deaths in 2020″ or “about one death every 11 minutes.” If you notice some or all of the following signs, your loved one may be considering suicide. You can help them safely move past that dark place. Speak to them, actively listen, and reach out to a mental health support resource for assistance if you see the following signs and suspect someone you care about may be a danger to themselves.
#1. Giving Away Treasured Items
Individuals contemplating suicide may start to give away items that hold particular sentimental value. Gifting personal treasures is common for people preparing to leave loved ones behind. You may even hear them say things like “I want these looked after when I am gone” or similar lines indicating they may be planning to act on their suicidal thoughts.
#2. Making Statements About Leaving or Not Being Around Much Longer
You might hear your loved one talk about going away or leaving for a while. The statements may be vague and only peripherally indicate that “leaving” refers to death. However, some people are very blunt and use straightforward language to express their intentions. You can use these moments to connect with them and let them know you hear them and want to help.
#3. Frivolously Spending Money Without Thinking About Future Costs
If someone is actively considering suicide, they may see no point in saving money or using it wisely because they will not have to face the consequences of frivolous spending. You may notice that your loved one, who is normally very conscientious, may be making costly purchases that are highly out of character. Out-of-control spending is dangerous in individuals who have suicidal thoughts or urges because it may cause increased financial stress and indicate that they see no reason to plan for their future.
#4. Expressing Anger, Fear, or Uncertainty About the Future
Many people who attempt suicide speak out about how they feel to close friends and family members. Some of the things they may mention include:
- Fear of experiencing pain in the future
- Anger at themselves, others, or life in general
- Uncertainty about their place in the world or the meaning of their life
You can use these moments to remind them that they are not alone.
#5. Backsliding Into Maladaptive Behaviors
A strong indicator that someone may be considering suicide is an increase in risk-taking behaviors, including backsliding into old maladaptive patterns, such as substance misuse. You may notice visible side effects of their changed routines, including:
- Extreme and sudden mood swings
- Periods of happiness or giddiness followed by isolation or depression
- Changes to eating habits and/or sleeping patterns
- Social isolation
- Not looking after their physical needs
#6. Lack of Motivation
Depression is a common symptom for individuals struggling with suicidal thoughts, and it can cause them to give up on activities they usually enjoy. A dangerous lack of motivation often manifests in isolation and no longer finding pleasure in hobbies or social connections. Decreased motivation can also cause someone to stop taking care of themselves, most noticeable with changes to personal hygiene and outward appearance.
#7. Extreme Mood Swings
A wide range of things can cause extreme mood swings, including the increased depression that often accompanies suicidal thoughts. You may notice that their mood shifts abruptly, causing unusual responses to stressful or emotional situations.
#8. Isolating From Important Social Groups
Peer support is an essential part of recovery, and pulling away from social groups can indicate something is very wrong. Your loved one may become more distant and not respond to texts, emails, or attempts to meet up. If you are worried that their isolating behavior is a sign they may be contemplating suicide, it is vital that you continue to reach out and provide them with encouragement, support, and resources.
The Benefits of Therapy for Suicidal Thoughts
Watching a loved one struggle with suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors can be devastating. If you are concerned that someone you love may be planning to hurt themselves, you can look for obvious signs of intent and take action. Being able to recognize warning signs can give you the opportunity to intervene and get your loved one the assistance they need. The Phoenix Recovery Center can help you plan an intervention and therapy for suicidal thoughts for individuals who may be in danger of harming themselves. You are not alone, and you can make a difference. Look for signs that your loved one needs additional support and educate yourself on local resources. We are here to help.