Every year nearly one million people worldwide will elect a permanent solution to what is usually a temporary problem: depression. Depression hurts. The symptoms of depression include depressed mood nearly every day, diminished interest in pleasurable activities or loss of feeling pleasure, weight loss or gain, hypersomnia or insomnia, feelings of restlessness, inappropriate guilt, fatigue, loss of energy, feelings of worthlessness, and diminished ability to think and concentrate. It is a long list of symptoms, all of which are difficult to deal with day in and day out and may make a person feel like there is no hope and life is not worth living. Another of the diagnostic symptoms of depression is recurrent thoughts of death and suicide. Unfortunately, every year we lose a million people to suicide, 90% of which have an existing mental disorder or substance abuse problem.
If you are suicidal or you think you know someone who is, it is important to know that help is available and recovery is not only possible, but likely with correct treatment. Depression is an illness like any other, and it needs to be treated like an illness that can be cured. Below we will discuss the symptoms and warning signs of suicide and discuss what you can do to get the care needed to avoid a permanent solution to this treatable problem.
Danger Signs of Suicide
- Talking about death, wanting to die or to kill oneself: Preoccupation with death and suicide is one of the diagnostic criterion of depression. It is a common misconception that people who talk about suicide don’t really mean to act on it, but that is not the case. Almost everyone who attempts or commits suicide will give verbal clues or warnings. This often comes in the form of talking about hopelessness, feeling trapped and in pain, or having no reason to live.
- Having a plan to kill oneself and/or acting towards that goal: Often people who wish to kill themselves will take steps ahead of time, such as researching suicide online or buying a gun.
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol: Those who are depressed often use drugs and alcohol to help mask and deal with their symptoms. As depression gets worse, the use of drugs and alcohol may increase.
- Reckless behavior: Those who are contemplating suicide may begin to act recklessly. This may be due to the wish to die, but difficulty deciding on or committing the act.
- Saying goodbye to one’s friends and loved ones and setting one’s affairs in order: Those who are depressed and wish to end their lives often wish to tie up loose ends, including saying goodbye to friends and loved ones for the last time.
- Giving things away, such as prized possessions: Similar to setting one’s affairs in order, those who wish to end their lives may wish to give away their favorite possessions to see that they go to a good place, such as a friend or loved one.
- Displaying extreme mood swings such as rage, or talking about seeking revenge: Although uncommon, some people with severe mental illness wish to seek revenge for a wrong done to them. This may be a traumatic event which precipitated the depressive episode for which the person wishes revenge. Serious revenge may end in murder or suicide.
Any or all of these symptoms are serious warning signs for suicide that should not be ignored. If someone you know shows one or more of these symptoms, it is very important to act immediately. The first step is to talk to the person and assess the danger in a non-confrontational and non-judgmental way to assess the danger. However, it is always best to err on the side of caution. Even if the person with these symptoms denies that they wish to commit suicide, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Even if you are nervous about making a friend angry at you, it is better to incur some anger than to lose your friend forever.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255