Suicide Warning Signs Hidden in Plain Sight
Learn how to spot the tells and prevent the seemingly unpreventable.
An estimated 20 million people (at least) suffer from depression in the United States, and many of those people choose to suffer in silence. Unfortunately, keeping such intense emotions tightly bottled up can lead to drastic, irreversible measures—like suicide. In fact, according to the American Society for Suicide Prevention, about 45,000 Americans die by suicide every year.
But it doesn't have to end this way. By being able to spot common suicide warning signs, it's possible to take action before it's too late, and prevent the seemingly unpreventable. (Just remember that, no matter what, nothing that happens is your fault, and just being there for your loved ones is enough.) And, of course, if you fear that someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, direct them to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which you can find at 1-800-273-8255. And for ways to improve your own wellbeing, try these 20 Expert-Backed Ways to Improve Your Mental Health Every Day.
They Talk More Frequently About "The Meaning of Life"
Does your friend constantly want to talk about the meaning of life or how everything they do is essentially pointless? You probably just take their musings in jest, but these could actually be a hidden cry for help. "When you do finally catch up with a person with masked depression, you may find the conversation turning to philosophical topics they don't normally talk about," John M. Grohol, Psy.D., wrote on Psych Central. "These kinds of topics may be a sign that a person is struggling internally with darker thoughts that they dare not share."
They Are Perfectionists to a Fault
Being a perfectionist in itself is not a suicide warning sign, but those who take their perfectionism too far often dig themselves into a hole of depression. "People with [perfectly hidden depression] silently berate themselves if they're not at the top at all times," wrote Dr. Margaret Rutherford. "They may allow themselves one area where they're not proficient… but if it's an activity or a pursuit that is meaningful to them, it needs to be perfect."
They Spend Too Much Time with Technology
Given that phones are like another appendage for most people, it's fair to say that most of us spend too much time with technology. But if you're worried that a friend or family member is depressed, you may want to keep them away from the screens: One study from Florida State University found that 48 percent of teenagers who spent five or more hours on their electronics reported suicide-related behavior, compared to just 28 percent of those who kept their usage to under an hour. If you want to steer clear of the screens, you can always try these 20 Genius Ways to Kill Time without a Smartphone.
They Complain of Physical Pain
Depression doesn't just manifest as a mental health issue. According to Helpguide.org, many men who struggle with depression also complain of physical symptoms like backaches, headaches, trouble sleeping, sexual dysfunction, and digestion issues. Unfortunately, as these are symptoms of a deeper mental health issue, these men will find that their physical symptoms do not respond to typical treatments.
They're Partying More
Excessive drinking and drug use is a problem in and of itself, but it's only made more severe when you consider the fact that individuals with substance abuse problems are almost six times more likely to report a suicide attempt in their lifetime. And according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, men with substance abuse issues are 2.3 times more likely to kill themselves than those who stay away from the drugs and the booze. It certainly doesn't help that alcoholism can severely ruin your sleep cycle.
They Obsess About Their Figure
It's perfectly healthy to want to lose a few pounds for bikini season, but if your friend is obsessing about every last squat and stretch mark, that could be a sign of trouble. Researchers from Georgia State University found that high school students who either believed themselves to be overweight or were overweight were more at risk for suicide attempts. "Youth feel very pressured to fit in and to fit certain limited ideals of beauty," study author Monica Swahn, Ph.D., said.
They Are Becoming Increasingly Hostile
Has your best friend transformed from a loving pal into an irritable monster, seemingly overnight? It may just be the depression talking. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, two of the most telltale suicide warning signs are "showing rage or talking about seeking revenge" and "displaying extreme mood swings." Your friend isn't mad at you, per se, but is frustrated with the world for not giving him or her sense of purpose.
They Suffer From a Mental Disorder
If you sense that someone close to you is suffering from a mental illness, don't wait to get them the help they need. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 90 percent of people who commit suicide have a mental disorder, whether that's depression, bipolar disorder, or some other diagnosis. Thankfully, several mechanisms exist for coping with mental illnesses—just make sure to be there for your loved ones during this difficult time.
They Have Nightmares
Those terrible dreams that are keeping your children up at night could be a silent cry for help. According to a study out of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 66 percent of people who attempted suicide reported having nightmares. While nightmares don't cause suicide attempts, the study authors believe that this correlation could suggest that many people who are thinking about killing themselves suffer from sleep disturbances.
They've Stopped Hanging Out With Friends
If you notice your outgoing friend suddenly going out less, you might want to ask them if something is wrong. According to the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, one of the warning signs of suicide is changes in behavior, including "withdrawal from friends or changes in social activities."
They've Slashed Their Calorie Intake
"Loss of appetite can be an early sign of depression or a warning of a depression relapse," Gary Kennedy, MD, told Everyday Health. "Many people with depression lose both energy and interest. This can include a loss of interest in eating."
They Suffer From Insomnia
Insomnia is a serious issue with long-lasting consequences, depression being one of them. One study out of the University of North Texas found that people who suffer from insomnia are ten times more likely to develop depression compared to those who sleep soundly. If you know someone who can't sleep at night, try getting them to adopt the 15 Ways to Bounce Back from a Poor Night's Sleep.
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