by Melissa Howard
Suicide is a travesty that affects millions of people all over the world. When a person decides to take his or her own life, they leave behind a slew of impossible questions and difficult emotions for their loved ones: What do we do now? Why did this happen? Is there anything anyone could have done to prevent this from happening?
Warning Signs of Suicide
There is no one reason why a person decides to end their life. People have their own experiences and troubles that influence them along with mental health struggles. Typically, people who engage in suicidal acts don’t necessarily want to die; it’s more like they just want an escape from pain that they see as unmanageable and unbearable.
Substance abuse is another factor that increases the likelihood that a person might wish to die. Mental health issues such as anxiety, trauma and depression often co-occur with drug and alcohol addiction. Even after seeking clinical treatment, addicts often experience residual guilt, financial problems, and damaged self-esteem that can contribute to thoughts of suicide.
Signs someone may be thinking about suicide include:
- Talking about suicide
- Mentioning feelings of hopelessness
- Expressing a sense that they are a burden to others
- Feeling trapped and like life is meaningless
- Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed
- Drug and/or alcohol abuse
- Online searches for ways to kill themselves
- Isolation from family and friends
- Sleep disorder and fatigue
- Aggression, rage, and irritability
- Saying goodbyes and giving away items
- A history of depression, anxiety, and/or PTSD
If you have a senior loved one in your life, you need to pay close attention to them, especially if they live alone. Loneliness, depression, and isolation are prevalent within the senior community, making older adults susceptible to suicidal thoughts. So, check in with your senior loved ones and see if they display any signs of senior isolation. If you suspect a loved one may be suffering from depression, encourage them to seek help. Fortunately, many Medicare Advantage plans, including those offered by private insurers such as UnitedHealthcare, offer a number of important wellness programs that can get them the assistance they require.
Suicide and the Blame Game
When someone takes their own life, the people they leave behind experience the whole gamut of emotions. While not everyone feels this way, some people blame themselves for not doing more to help prevent the tragedy. Others may blame the victim. The truth is that in the event of a suicide, no one is to blame. Life can be cruel and illogical. Sometimes, there are no answers to questions, and bad things happen and there’s nothing anyone could do about it. When recovering from a loved one’s suicide, try to avoid placing blame in any direction. Instead, focus on grieving and healing.
Preventing Suicide with Emotional Wellness
Those who have a history of suicidal thoughts, depression, and addiction can help improve their lives by pursuing a state of emotional wellness. While emotional wellness has a focus on nurturing our instincts and intuition, it’s important to remember that in the end, all aspects of health are connected. To support your emotional wellness and mental health, it’s just as important to take care of your body with proper diet and exercise.
It’s also important to build a supportive team of mental health experts, which may include a psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication as needed; a therapist, who can lead individual or group counseling sessions; and in many cases, a social worker, especially for those who have survived substance abuse or a previous suicide attempt. These specialists help patients of all ages develop emotional wellness tools to help them cope with mental health disorders, including suicidal thoughts. Licensed social workers typically obtain a Master of Social Work program that includes several hours of field work, so they have the hands-on experience needed to help patients struggling with thoughts of suicide through both prevention and intervention.
Other ways to support one’s emotional well-being include:
- Participating in activities that are meaningful — work, taking care of another, volunteering, etc.
- Sticking to a routine and maintaining a busy schedule
- Making crafts
- Trying new activities and meeting new people
- Traveling and visiting new places
- Practicing gratitude throughout the day
- Taking a day off when needed
Suicide is a serious problem that devastates the people left behind. There is no one reason for a person to take their own life and when they do it. While we can look for signs of a person thinking about suicide, if they end up taking their life, it is important not to blame anyone. We can help prevent suicide by encouraging people to promote their own emotional wellness.