It is a heavy topic to talk about—suicide, but one that is very important to look into and address. Thoughts on suicide, or showing suicidal behavior does not choose age, gender, race or social status. The Elderly, adults and children alike can be affected by mental health issues, or depression or anxiety, that could lead to suicidal thoughts and suicidal behavior. Many can feel like suicide is the only way out of the rut that they are in and it manifests in words and actions and behaviors beforehand that can cue family members and friends in that there is something wrong. It is important, then, to know what to watch out for and, even more, know what to do if a friend or loved one is at risk of suicide.
So, how do we recognize suicidal behavior?
1) A general change in disposition
One of the most subtle but most common signs to notice is that there is a change in the routines and general behavior of your loved one. From being very sociable and peppy, they may start to become more distant and aloof and reserved. Schedules and activities that may have been part of their routine may not be as important and they would opt to miss out on more and more activities.
The normally happy disposition they used to have is replaced by sadness and wanting to be more and more isolated from everyone and everything that used to matter. This is something that could gradually come about, so it is important to really look into it once this kind of behavior is noticed.
For some too, there is a noticeable change in sleep patterns. Suicidal behavior could manifest itself as sleeping more or sleeping much less or not sleeping at all.
2) Aggression and Recklessness
Many people notice that one of the big changes in their loved ones is that they are angrier and have more pent up negativity and aggression for situations that they would normally not react as negatively to. They may not care about the dangers of the actions and become more reckless and aggressive towards situations and others in their interactions.
For teens and adults, reckless behavior and aggression could also manifest in substance use and abuse—may it be medication, drugs or alcohol. Drowning out their problems or wanting to “escape” by means of these substances is one big red flag that should alert you about your loved one.
3) Being more interested in topics of death and dying
You may notice that your loved one talks more and more about death and dying. That slowly they become consumed with learning about death and it is becoming one of the central topics you talk about. Talk about leaving possessions behind or making plans to tie loose ends can also be suspicious behavior that can lead to suicide. The odd call or message from your loved one saying goodbye or messages alluding to that nature should be red flags and warnings signs that there is something wrong. This kind of behavior, especially, is the kind that should not be taken lightly.
Again, these behaviors may not come all at once and may not be very evident in the beginning. This is why it is important to be attuned to your loved ones and know what to do should you notice anything different or amiss.
Observing and being aware of possible suicidal behavior is one thing, but it is another thing altogether to know what to do once you notice that your loved one may be at risk for suicide. So, what is there to do?
The most important thing to do is to make your loved one know that you are there for them without judgment and without condition.
Ask questions and try to coax them to talk about their feelings and what is bothering them. Let them know that you care and that you are there for them.
The goal is to keep your loved one safe. Try to create a safe place for them by removing potentially lethal objects around them. Be alert and attuned to your loved one and always provide companionship, comfort, and support.