Suicide Prevention: 5 Signs it’s Time to Seek Help, by Melissa Howard

Suicide Prevention: Five Signs It’s Time to Seek Help

Self-harm and suicide are a harsh reality for thousands of individuals across the world. Either we know someone who has considered, or sadly succumbed to, suicide, or maybe you are the one at risk. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, addiction and other mental health conditions are often risk factors for suicide, but the signs and symptoms aren’t limited to those circumstances. Here are five warning signs to look out for if you or someone close to you is at risk.

  1. Unusual Sleep Patterns

Sleep plays a vital role in how our mind and body recover. Typically, six to eight hours of sleep is the optimal range we need to recharge. However, those who are in the midst of a mental crisis might find it hard to get the appropriate amount of rest. The result is either insomnia, where a person is unable to sleep, or hypersomnia, where someone can spend at least 10 hours asleep. If you or a loved one has experienced an unusual change in sleeping habits, talk to your doctor. Without the ability to rest, your mind and body can become overwhelmed, which can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or actions.

  1. Withdrawal

Another warning sign that an individual might be at risk for suicide is that they become more socially withdrawn. It’s not uncommon for a person actively considering suicide to feel shame or embarrassment. To avoid feeling guilty, the distressed individual may start to isolate themselves. Unfortunately, that very isolation can exacerbate the situation. By limiting the ability of others to intervene, the feelings of hopelessness and desperation can grow quickly. If someone you know is acting unusually withdrawn, especially if they have experienced trauma or have a mental health condition, it may be a sign that help is needed.

  1. Increased Use of Drugs or Alcohol

When we experience great mental and emotional distress, it’s easy— and common— to turn to substances such as drugs and alcohol to help cope. It may be a way to numb the pain or distract from having to think about the situation. Either way, this is why many people who face anxiety and depression are at a higher risk of suffering from a substance abuse disorder. Addiction on its own can be a destructive force. When coupled with distressing thoughts of suicide, the results can be disastrous. In these types of circumstances, it’s best to intervene and seek inpatient treatment for addiction. Talking to a licensed mental health counselor can help you or your loved one find treatment that will address both the trauma and the addiction.

If you’re a senior, you can also seek preventive care for alcohol abuse by utilizing the benefits of a Medicare Advantage plan. Some of these plans include preventive services like screenings for alcohol misuse and counseling, and they don’t require a copay. These plans can also cover the use of fitness centers and programs to further help you get back on track to a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t have one of these plans, consider signing up for one to help with treatment.

  1. Extreme Mood Swings

One of the easiest warning signs to spot is atypical behavior related to mood swings. When a person experiences extreme swings in emotions, they can go from the highest highs to the lowest lows in an instant. This can obviously be potentially dangerous if the person is also in the middle of a suicidal crisis. Mood swings can drive someone to engage in risk-taking behavior or cause someone to self-harm in the heat of the moment— at a time they normally wouldn’t if they were feeling differently.

  1. Verbalization

Finally, if anyone ever tells you that they are thinking of suicide or self-harm, please take them seriously. Words hold a certain weight, and anytime a person expresses a will “for it all to end” or “for a way out,” then others should listen. Verbalization should be especially taken into consideration when a person begins saying goodbyes and starts giving away valuable possessions to friends and family.

These are some of the warning signs that could indicate an individual might be at risk for suicide. If you or someone close to you begin to exhibit any one of these behaviors, seek help immediately. No matter how bleak things may seem, it’s important to remember that this will pass; you don’t need to end your life to make the hurt go away. Talk to someone before you make any decisions. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to talk with someone who cares about your feelings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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