Suicide Prevention and Resources: A guide
Updated: Oct 22
Suicidal thoughts affect millions of Americans every year, and because they are caused by many different things -- mood disorders, PTSD, substance abuse, a history of abuse, major life changes -- there are also many different ways to cope with and prevent them. It can be difficult to know where to turn, however, and if you have a loved one who is affected by suicidal thoughts, it’s not always easy to know what to say or when to say it.
Fortunately, there are several resources available for individuals who find themselves thinking of self-harm, including:
Suicide Prevention Lifeline--1-800-273-8255
Veterans Crisis Line--text to 838255
If you feel you are in immediate danger of self-harm or if you have a loved one who is, get to a safe place as soon as possible and call 911.
While many people believe that suicide rates are highest at Christmastime, more people die by suicide in the spring than any other time of year. It’s difficult to do a comprehensive study on why that is, but many researchers believe that it’s because after the stress of the holidays and gloom of winter, individuals who suffer from depression and other mood disorders expect spring to bring positive change and happiness. When their symptoms don’t go away, they begin to have suicidal thoughts.
Suicide affects a wide range of people; it does not discriminate based on age, race, or gender. It is the second-leading cause of death for people aged 24-35, but it can affect someone as young as ten years old. Those numbers are alarming due to the sheer amount of people who die by suicide every year in the U.S. (about 47,000) and the number of family members and friends each death touches.
Fortunately, there are several long-term prevention strategies that individuals who are living with suicidal thoughts can employ. Therapy or counseling is at the top of the list, and this can include joining a support group. Some of the other ways a person can help themselves include:
● Exercising daily. A good workout can boost self-esteem and energy levels and can release hormones that make you feel good.
● Self-care. This includes any activity that makes you feel good in a healthy way, such as playing a sport, crafting or spending time working on a hobby, or simply taking some time to read a book or catch up on favorite shows.
● Getting enough sleep. This is imperative but can be difficult when depression rears its ugly head. Find ways to relax before bed, such as practicing yoga or meditation, taking a long hot bath, or lighting some lavender candles.
● Keeping a healthy home. A messy and decluttered home can promote negative behaviors, but a well-kept home can do wonders for lowering anxiety and stress.
● Get support. For those with mood disorders or illness, fighting back suicidal thoughts can be a lifelong job. It’s important to get support from friends and family and reach out for help when you need it.
After a suicide, many people search for answers as to why their loved one died. Sometimes there are outside factors, such as bullying, physical or sexual abuse, or a big life change that the individual wasn’t able to cope with. Other times, depression, undiagnosed illnesses, or an internal struggle with sexuality leads them to feel that they are out of options. It’s important to remember that a person who attempts suicide often feels that their friends and families would be better off without them; it’s not a selfish act, although it may seem that way to the people they leave behind.
Substances can also play a big role in suicidal thoughts. A person who is already battling depression or stress overload may feel that finding release in drugs or alcohol helps, but in the end they only make things worse. Not only do they provide a very temporary feeling of relief, they can lead to physical problems, memory loss, violent behavior, and overdoses. Many people who have addiction issues are more at risk for social withdrawal -- which can lead to feelings of being alone, exacerbating depression -- and are likely to have financial troubles due to the expense of their habit. Drugs and alcohol also make most people more impulsive, a terrible combination with suicidal thoughts.
In some ways, suicide is still a very taboo subject, and many people feel uncomfortable talking about it because they aren’t educated on the statistics. Being knowledgeable about suicidal thoughts and warning signs is important, as is starting an honest conversation on the topic to garner support and share the facts.
Written and shared by: Jennifer McGregor