Suicide statistics are sobering: In 2010, more people died of suicide than in car accidents, according to a 2013 report for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
With depression more prevalent than ever, it's often difficult to determine if someone is just clinically depressed or suicidal, and it's hardly a black-and-white issue. For the loved ones of suicide victims and the medical professionals who treat them, suicide poses an incredible emotional and psychological challenge. The warning signs, if they even exist, can manifest themselves in vastly different ways depending on the patient.
September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness month, and we sat down with clinical psychologist and Discovery Fit & Health blogger, Dr. Nicole Joseph, to discuss suicide signs and symptoms and how a family member may be able to detect suicide risk in a loved one.
Read on to learn more about suicide risk and prevention, and what you can do if someone you know is exhibiting these symptoms.
Self-harm or injury, including but not limited to cutting, scratching, burning, or hitting oneself is often an indication of risk of suicide.
This does not mean that every individual that engages in self-harm intends to commit suicide, however as a parent, family member, or friend of a loved one that is discovered to be hurting himself or herself, it is always a good idea to seek professional help.
Feelings of loss can be the result of a variety of different factors. A young person may feel that they have lost someone after moving away from friends, being rejected by a particular social group, losing a relative or loved one and in certain cases, even after the divorce of a parent(s), explains Joseph.
For the elderly (those 65 and up) often these emotions manifest themselves in feelings of isolation. Older adults are often more likely to experience loss and bereavement through the death of a loved one or friend. These individuals are also much more likely to live by themselves and/or in isolation, adding to the perceived sense of aloneness.
It is important to remember, especially as it relates to young people, that perception plays a significant role. While to a parent, the trigger for these emotions may not seem like a "big deal," the perceived emotions indicate otherwise and could put your child at risk.
Symptoms such as weight gain, loss of interest, a lack of motivation and in particular a frequent and apathetic giving away of gifts or material items can indicate a potential risk of suicide.
As the parent or spouse of an individual that may be at risk of suicide, do not be afraid to ask. Often parents fear that they will encourage a child to consider such actions by asking; however in many cases, it allows the child to know that you care and want to help them.
In the rare event that a note or letter is discovered which is suicidal in nature, be sure to contact a medical professional immediately.
Insecurity is common in both teens and adults, however phrases like "Nobody would miss me if I were gone," or "Nobody cares about me," are strong indicators of an extreme risk of suicide, says Joseph.
If you are concerned that your loved one feels this way, seek a medical professional and set up a consultation. It also never hurts to let this person know that they are important to you and that you love them.
Those who seem hopeless and lack an investment in their future may be expressing signs of depressive behavior and therefore may be at risk for suicide.
Statements such as "When I grow up" (if the individual is a child), or even statements that start with "next week" or "next month" indicate an investment in the future.
Feelings of hopelessness are dangerous and could be an indication of greater risks.
Though it's important to offer your love and support to someone exhibiting these symptoms, sometimes that is not enough. Depending on how urgent help is needed, scheduling time with a therapist, or reaching out to the Suicide Prevention Hotline [1-800-273-TALK (8255)] or Stop Suicide Today.
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- "AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SUICIDOLOGY Suicide Prevention Is Everyone's Business." National Suicide Statistics. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2013. .
- Joseph, Nicole, Dr. "Clinical Psychologist Interview." Telephone interview. 4 Sept. 2013.
- "Suicide in the U.S.: Statistics and Prevention." NIMH RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Sept. 2013. .