Among all the mental health issues you or your loved ones may face throughout your lives, suicidal thoughts are one of the most serious. One survey found that around 20 percent of the population will experience suicidal feelings at some point in their lives, and nearly seven percent of those people will attempt suicide.
Not only can having suicidal thoughts and feelings make living life miserable, it could separate you from your loved ones forever. It pays to know the signs and symptoms of suicidal thoughts, as well as what to do when they appear, so you, a friend, or a family member doesn’t lose their life needlessly.
Signs That Someone May Have Suicidal Thoughts
Suicidal thoughts can take many forms. For some, it’s a fleeting wish that they weren’t alive. For others, it’s a matter of thinking that others would be better off if they weren’t here. If you have suicidal feelings, you may notice thought patterns like these.
The hard part is guessing if friends or family are having suicidal thoughts. In some cases, they may tell you, but in many cases, they will keep that information to themselves. It can be especially painful when the suicide of a loved one seemingly comes out of the blue.
Sometimes, the signs are there if you know where to look. Suicidal contemplation is often accompanied by other symptoms that include:
- Appearance of feeling hopeless
- Abnormal preoccupation with violence or death
- Extreme mood swings
- Heightened state of agitation or anxiety
- Change in sleeping patterns
- Giving personal belongings away
- Increased isolation
- Severe remorse and self-criticism
If you or someone you love is experiencing these symptoms, it can also be helpful to know the root cause of those symptoms. They can help inform your decision on the best way to get help.
Why Suicidal Thoughts Appear
There are many reasons why suicidal thoughts may appear. In most cases, it’s because a person feels they are no longer able to cope with something overwhelming that’s happening in their lives, or they are struggling to deal with overwhelming thoughts and feelings.
Symptoms may coincide with a mental health crisis. It might include dealing with the emotional pain of a breakup, physical abuse, or any other upsetting life events. They are also fairly common among those with major depression and some other mental health problems. However, it is important to note that just because you or a loved one is depressed doesn’t automatically mean they will have thoughts of suicide.
Those who abuse alcohol and drugs can experience suicidal thoughts, or taking a new medication that triggers a change in mood. A serious medical condition can also be a reason why someone begins thinking about ending their own life.
In some cases, it can be difficult to pinpoint where and when the feelings began. The daily grind of life and challenges that seemed surmountable at first can slowly start to seem unconquerable. Occupational burnout is increasing, as is general burnout, which can jump-start suicidal thoughts.
Signs That You Need Help
Just because you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide doesn’t mean they will actually attempt to take their own life. Surprisingly, it’s common to have passive thoughts of suicide, especially among people who suffer from depression or bipolar disorder. Having these kinds of thoughts can be a way that people cope with life’s challenges, even if it’s an unhealthy coping mechanism.
The trouble occurs when those passive thoughts of suicide become active thoughts. For example, passive thoughts of suicide include wishing you could just go back to sleep in the morning and never wake up. In some cases, these thoughts may come as a surprise. In other cases, the person experiencing them may become disturbed by their own thoughts and find ways to combat them. If the thoughts become persistent and cause you distress, you may want to seek help, but it’s important to know that thoughts like these are not inherently a cause for alarm.
There is a difference between having thoughts of death and dying, like above, and active suicidal thoughts. Thoughts become active when you or someone you love starts planning or seriously considering how they could actually take their own life. For example, not only would you think about going to sleep and never waking up, but you might also start thinking about what kinds of medications you could take to make it happen, what day of the week would be best to take the pills, and how you would get your affairs in order before taking them.
If you or a loved one even hints at how they might go about ending their own life, it’s serious enough to get help immediately.
How to Get Help
No matter how severe the thoughts, or whether the thoughts are yours or someone you love’s, there are many ways to get help.
Having a support group you can turn to can make you feel like you aren’t alone. It could be a group you meet with outside your home, but a support network can also include friends and family members that you check in with regularly about your and their mental health.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week when you call 1-800-273-8255. It’s a great option for those who need someone to talk to immediately and anonymously. But if you need urgent help preventing a suicide, you should call 911 to receive immediate, in-person care.
Seeking help in an inpatient or intensive outpatient program are important options to consider as well. Participating in these kinds of programs not only provide you with group and family therapy options, they can also help you work through the root causes of your suicidal thoughts, helping to get rid of them for good.