- Education and Science»
- Psychology & Psychiatry
The Silent Killer Of Suicide
Breaking The Silence
Suicide has the tendency to feel very silent. Too often that is because the warning signs are either not known or loved ones have the hope that they will overcome their “sadness.” However, this permanent action is much more complicated than a simple sadness that can be overcome or conquered. That does seem a bit terrifying but in the end this act is not the result of being just sad.
This is one of the leading causes of death in the US. In age groups from 15 to 24 there is an average of 11.3 suicides per day in the US. The numbers are also high for individuals over 65 years old or who has a new health related diagnosis.
This is a topic that many cringe when discussing or better yet in some way try to avoid. Though in the recent past, this behavior has made national attention. A highly stigmatized act that is linked with mental health disorders, some may scratch their head is confusion and often goes misunderstood.
Those left behind do so with a hole in their hearts and a flow of unanswered questions. “Did I miss something?” is frequently pondered and a huge source of residual guilt. Too often in the aftermath, most that knew the victim are dumbfounded and not sure how to proceed. This is a death that is like a ripple in the ocean, it affects anyone in its reach.
Connections to Mental Health
Though not a mental health disorder the thoughts and behaviors are in fact connected to mental health. For instance, depression, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder are three mental health diagnoses that are commonly connected with this behavior. That does not mean if you have one of the above diagnoses you will commit that fatal act but what it does infer is that thoughts and gestures may be part of the symptomology for the diagnosed person.
It is pretty apparent why depression would be a diagnosis that is associated with this behavior. Below are some warning signs. If you or someone you know is experiencing multiple symptoms seeking treatment may be adequate.
Suicide Warning Signs
- Past attempts
- A plan and means to carry it out
- Reckless behavior (out of the norm)
- Increased drug or alcohol use
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Putting affairs in order –making amends, paying for funeral costs
- Talking about dying
- Recent medical diagnosis (i.e. cancer)
- Feeling hopeless/depression
- Recent loss of loved one to include pets/loss of employment
- Giving away possessions
- No sense of purpose or belonging
- Withdrawal from normal activities and friends
- Sudden mood change
What Is Treatment Like?
Fears commonly deter individuals from seeking treatment, though often professional help is essential. Though treatment cannot save a person’s life it can help to put hopeless concerns into perspective. Hopelessness is regularly a driving force in many suicides. Therapy with a well-trained person can help to rekindle lost hope. Depression is a very powerful disorder that can take a person’s ability to think clearly and visualize a better future. Finding a therapist that works for your situation is essential so that the therapeutic relationship can grow. When looking for a therapist consider:
- Therapist gender
- Are they specialized in your diagnoses or symptoms
- Do they take insurance if your insurance pays for treatment
- What is their therapeutic approach or theory – ask and they can define that for you
- What is their beliefs about medication – are they similar to yours
- Get a recommendation from someone you know
When Is Hospitalization Necessary
Immediate attention may be needed if you cannot ensure your safety or that you are afraid you may hurt yourself. Frequently a person that is on the brink of acting upon their thoughts are not forward in telling loved ones that they are planning on carrying out their plan. So asking questions can really help to understand the severity of a person’s fatal thoughts. Questions could look like this:
- What are you plans later today or this weekend
- Would you like to talk
- Can you call me later
- Are you alone
If you know this person has a history of depression or past attempts and also answers no to those questions then digging deeper is definitely needed. Find out detailed information about reasons to live or who would miss them if they were gone. Their answers can offer some insight into their experienced hopelessness. The most important part of being a friend or loved one is to show empathy and do something. Often a person that is hopeless just wants to know that someone feels they are worth it.
Dealing With The Aftermath
There are really no words to describe the silent pain of being left behind. Suicide is a loudly silent message. What can you say when a person’s turmoil was so overpowering that removing themselves from this world completely was the only option. The impact of being close to someone who completed the ultimate act is overwhelmingly heavy. Most people will say, “I wish I knew it was that bad.” But frequently the person who commits suicide suffers in silence. They either do not know how to get help or fear that the help they receive will lead to a new and unwanted label. This frequently feels like no one can help or no one understands. The fact is understanding their pain is not necessary but empathy is what they need.
Feeling like something was overlooked usually produces a sense of guilt in the survivors. That is likely true, but not on purpose. Even if a person suffers in silence, behavior speaks very loudly. Paying attention for sudden changes in behavior can be a very powerful tool. Listening to the things that they are saying. Now there is a difference from hearing and listening. Listening is an active behavior. One that requires processing information and interacting in conversation. Being present with someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts shows that someone cares.
Can This Be Prevented?
That is truly a difficult question with an even more difficult answer. Difficult to swallow that is. It becomes a yes and a no. Yes one can try to be present and show another person their concern and empathy by getting them help and being available. But, in the end if their mind is set on the ultimate forever nothing can prevent that small population from that behavior. Those that cannot be touched are very few. That is it becomes a silent killer. Those that are very serious about ending their lives commonly won’t open up to others. But for the most part, people want reassurance that life will improve and that there is purpose to their lives. So for a good portion of completed deaths maybe the mark was missed and they were not reassured about an improved future. How to successfully prevent this act from occurring may never be known since the effective ones are not able to tell their story. Though there is a great deal of information from those that have tried and lived to tell their experience. One great source of information is the Trevor Project. Trevor is a young man who attempted after feeling ostracized for being gay. He did not complete his attempt and has used that experience to teach others how to live. That in itself is a powerful message, many people just do not know how to live.
Celebrities Talking About Trevor Hotline
But You Can Speak Out
Reducing stigma is an unquestionable way to reduce the occurrence of this powerful behavior. Realizing that hopelessness can occur to anyone throughout the course of life, even to those who appear truly happy. Uncontrollable circumstances occur and depression may come out of nowhere. Knowing how to react can be the difference and can save a life. In the end take the silence away from this detrimental act and speak out to help those see that hope can be restored.