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Suicidal Thoughts

Suicidal Thoughts: How to Support Someone

Depression can present itself in many different ways. People often presume that individuals who are suffering from depression will just be sad. Although to a certain degree that is true, there are hundreds of other symptoms and correlating disorders that come with depression like generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, and other mental health illnesses. One of the most detrimental consequences of depression is having suicidal thoughts.

There is a stigma that surrounds mental illness and when it comes to addressing the suicidal thoughts a person may be having, people are often skeptical and tend to steer clear of such people.  As harsh as it may sound some people are not equipped to cater to the emotional needs of someone who’s having suicidal thoughts. In this article, we’ll share some ways in which you can help a person who is suffering from suicidal depression.

How to support someone with suicidal thoughts?

Many people don’t realize that depression is a treatable condition, therefore they don’t ask for support. If you think someone you know might be considering suicide, don’t wait until it’s too late. Help them address the problem and get them connected to a mental health professional. Make them feel comfortable by talking to them in a non-judgmental and supportive manner. The first thing you should do is ask the tough questions. People often avoid talking about suicide because they think it would be distressing and awkward for the other person. You need to let them know that you are comfortable discussing this very sensitive issue and can even help them navigate through their feelings.

What causes a person to become suicidal?

We often wonder what makes a person get to the verge where they consider taking their own life. There is no simple answer to this question because the causes and circumstances are different for every individual. There are multiple factors and incidents that can drive a person towards a suicide crisis. One of the most prominent causes is severe depression. In the US alone about 6.7% of the adult population suffers from severe depression each year and out of that 60% of people commit suicide. Other disorders like bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and schizophrenia are also linked with suicidality.

A person who has endured traumatic loss like the death of a loved one, job loss, financial problems, loss of close friends or relationships is more likely to commit suicide. A traumatic incident like child abuse, rape, or physical abuse is also one of the biggest causes of suicide. According to a survey, around 22% of rape victims had attempted suicide at some point.

Other factors and causes of suicide include substance abuse and chronic illness and pain.

Suicidal Depression

Suicidal Depression is not exactly a medical term. Psychologists and doctors refer to it as “depression with suicidal thoughts”. When someone is suffering from clinical depression and one of the prominent symptoms of it is suicidal ideations that is referred to as suicidal depression by us commoners. Depression has a very strong correlation with suicidal ideations and tendencies. If you suffer from clinical depression and you catch yourself having suicidal thoughts, ask for help immediately.

Warning signs of a suicidal person

Most often than not people tend to miss the warning signs a suicidal person is exhibiting. Mostly because these signs are subtle in comparison to physical conditions that exhibit prominent and not-easy-to-miss symptoms. Sometimes people are not aware of the warning signs a suicidal person might show. Here we mention some warning signs of suicidal ideations:

1)  Unusual changes in behavior: People who are having suicidal thoughts tend to go through a radical change in behavior which is often overlooked by people around them. If a person who is usually struggling with depression is suddenly calm and at peace with themselves, try to reach out to them and talk to them.

2)  Changes in sleeping patterns: A shift in how someone sleeps is a sign of depression but also suicidal behaviors. Someone who is feeling suicidal may sleep more than normal, struggling to get out of bed at all.

3)  Emotionally Distant: People who are suicidal suddenly become very emotionally distant from their loved ones. They would feel detached from life and would probably isolate themselves socially.

4)  Accessing lethal items: If someone who suffers from severe depression has now suddenly become inclined towards accessing lethal means like guns or pills, be vigilant around them.

How to offer support to someone feeling suicidal?

Helpful tips to support a person having suicidal thoughts

–          Pay attention to their changing behaviors

Suicidal ideation is often a misconceived notion in the minds of people. Mostly because talking about suicide has been taboo until recently. The behavior of a severely depressed individual can help recognize several warning signs of a suicidal individual. If a person suddenly starts talking about things that reflect a sense of shame, hopelessness, or failure, it might mean that that person is thinking about suicide.

–          Be direct

You can determine the level of risk your loved one might be in by asking a few direct questions like: “Are you thinking about ending your life?” or “Do you already have the things you’d use?” If the answers to such questions are yes, convince your friend to seek help immediately or direct some kind of help towards them.   

–          Support and encourage them to talk about how they feel

A proper conversion can help fix a lot of problems. Sometimes people who consider taking their own life do so because they are extremely lonely. Talking to them about how they feel and supporting them while they figure out a way to navigate through their thoughts.

–          Persistently support and offer compassion

If a person suffers from severe depression and is having suicidal thoughts, it won’t just go away after a few conversations. People are often hit by suicidal thoughts suddenly. You need to be persistent with these people. Be there for them as much as you can and persistently offer compassion to them so they feel supported and understood.

What won’t help?

There are a couple of things that people tend to do mostly because of the lack of awareness but these things can have severe effects on a depressed person’s psyche. These include

–          Being dismissive:

When a person with suicidal tendencies tries to address his/her problems and talk about them, you shrug them off.

–          Asking them to “Man up” or  “Just get over it”

People often lack compassion when they come across someone who’s having suicidal thoughts. Mostly because they don’t know how to respond or make someone feel better. They tend to throw around phrases like ‘Man up!” or “Just move one”. These statements can cause the depressed person to isolate him/herself as they may feel misunderstood.

–          Be their confidant but do not promise to keep their suicidal feelings a secret:

Be as understanding as you can be, but explain to them that they need to contact a proper mental health professional so they can get the help they need. If they are unwilling to do so, call for help yourself before the person becomes a danger to him/herself.

How is a suicidal person treated?

There are a couple of treatment options out there for people who often have suicidal thoughts. These include:

–          Psychotherapy: This is also known as psychological counseling, in which with the help of a therapist you discover issues that make you feel suicidal and learn ways in which you can manage emotions more effectively.

 –          Medications: Some people who suffer from severe mental disorders with a correlated side effect of having suicidal thoughts may be prescribed antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, and anti-anxiety medications.

 –          Family counseling and education: It is important that the people who are around a suicidal individual understand what they are going through, which will enable them to help the suicidal individual in a better manner.

Seeking emergency help

If you are someone who is persistently having suicidal thoughts or you know someone who might be at risk to him/herself seek the help of a professional psychiatrist or neurologist immediately. At Manhattan Medical Arts, we have some expert physicians who can help you deal with these thoughts and come up with a treatment plan that may help fix the underlying problem that may be causing your suicidal behavior. 

– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 07/05/2021

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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