How You Can Help: 6 Signs a Loved One Is Suicidal

Suicidal thoughts are an absolute killer and anyone who has experienced them knows how draining they can be. It can sometimes feel like you are carrying a constant weight on your back, having to battle against life everyday just to stay alive. If you said to me even last year that I would ever have suicidal thoughts, I just would never have believed you. My approach to suicide was simply ‘why would you want to end your life? What a waste‘. They have a funny way of creeping up on you and surprising you and before you know it, they’re a massive part of your life.

One thing I hate about society is the entire ‘talk to someone’ idea of if suicidal people just reach out to someone, they will find a reason to live. I just think this is a load of shit. There has been so many cases where people have been visibly suffering yet no one speaks up about it or addresses them in any way until they are no longer here. Nothing angers me more than the endless ‘if only they spoke to someone’ statements following someone’s devastating suicide. Chances are they did reach out one way or another whether directly saying they wanted to end their life or not, the latter being the more likely. Reaching out is a point of absolute desperation. Suicide is a last resort. It is so important to look out for the signs before it’s too late. Here are some key ones to look out for.

1. Talking About Death

Suicidal thoughts target anyone. Suicide does not care if you are loud, quiet, outgoing, shy, active or lazy. Suicidal thoughts can intrude on any mind, intelligent or not. It is extremely hard to identify who is suffering. Although some people hide it better than others, you never know what is going on in someone’s mind. But there are little cracks that show that can suggest how they’re feeling.

Talking about death, whether jokingly or not, could be a cry for help. I’m not saying whenever someone mentions death they’re immediately on the verge of ending their life, but suicidal people usually bring up death as a topic of conversation or even joke about ending their life. In my darkest times, I wouldn’t dare openly say that I was a suicidal mainly because of the stigma around the subject, but I have jokingly mentioned ending my life and used lighthearted humour of a dark subject to hint that I was unhappy.

What you can do: Listen to your friends and family, paying attention to the topics they discuss. If they’re suddenly bringing a up topics about death and telling you how they want to be remembered/how they want their funeral to go, whether in a joking way or not, these may be cries for help. Always listen and never brush off potential reaches for guidance.

2. Self-Destructive Behaviour

Dysregulated behaviours or self destructive acts are one of the more obvious signs of psychological stress of suicidal tendencies. If a person is acting erratically, taking risky actions without even considering the consequences as though they’re only concerned with the current moment and do not pay any attention to the future ahead.

In my darkest times when I was almost certain I wouldn’t see a year ahead, I made some very stupid decisions which I’m still dealing with now. The life I lived was full of self-destruction, with daily patterns of substance abuse and creating some serious financial problems for my future. The only way I can describe it is doing everything I could to make my life worse, to make it easier to end my life. It sounds ridiculous but suicidal people see no future and simply don’t care about consequences. In that dark moment, you will literally do anything as you don’t value your own life. It’s a very scary time for anyone and can lead to some serious problems.

What you can do: If your friend is behaving in an erratic way and doing very stupid things in destruction of their own life, take time to talk to them. Telling them the consequences of what they’re doing won’t really have an impact as they’re already aware of the consequences, they just don’t care about them. Take time to find out what’s wrong with them, be there for them and regardless whether you agree with their choices or not, do not lecture them or abandon them in their time of need.

3. Neglecting Responsibilities

Suicidal people have a tendency to neglect and lose hope for their life. This can involve anything including missing rent payments, not showing up for work, dropping out of social events and putting no effort into their appearance or psychical health. When all you see is an end, it is difficult to do anything that contributes to a future.

This can be quite difficult to spot in some cases, as if they’re like me, they can be very good at putting on a persona and painting their life out to be successful and happy. However, if enough time is spent with the suffering individual, cracks will inevitably begin to show. Whether gaining or losing weight, having general poor appearance, a dramatic decrease in work effort, the entire function of the individuals life will begin to fail. Once we stop putting effort in, particularly in adulthood, so much can fall apart to the point where picking up the pieces will be more than difficult.

What you can do: if you notice these patterns of neglect in a loved ones life, you can either support them by helping them with their responsibilities or find the route of the underlying issue. Noticing little signs like this and reaching out to your friends could push them to open up and ask for help. If they are unlikely to ask for help and have a tendency to deal with their problems on their own, it usually takes the reaching hand of a loved one offering help to make the first steps to recovery.

4. Substance Abuse

Harmful use of substances involving drugs, alcohol and prescription medication almost always have direct links to psychological damage and trauma. A coping mechanism for many people, substance abuse of excessive drug-taking and alcohol consumption can highlight someone’s personal struggles.

If a friend is drinking too often, using drugs to cope with every day life or getting themselves in dangerous states as a result of substance abuse, it is highly likely they use these as a means of escaping reality for a while. Alcohol and drugs are seen as the key to just stopping emotional pain for a little while, which ultimately worsens the bigger issue over time. So many people self-medicate using alcohol and drugs to deal with everyday stresses or psychological trauma, conscious or not to the fact that they are simply running from dealing with the major issue.

It is fairly easy to spot this behaviour most of the time, however in some cases individuals will hide their substance abuse and reliance from the world through shame. Although, if you are close enough to the suffering person, there will inevitably signs that point towards excessive substance use.

What you can do: the best thing a friend can do when dealing with addiction or substance abuse is to not contribute to or enable their actions. Although it is unfair to say change your own lifestyle to prevent encouragement of someone else’s actions, it is important to not directly invite your struggling friend into situations where they are exposed to harmful substances. Be a friend to the person, get them to socialise in an environment where there are no pressures to consume drugs or alcohol. Be a friend and supporter of the persons recovery, not an encouragement to an even darker place.

5. Failing Relationships

When someone is struggling, it is more than likely they feel entirely alone in their situation. I know from experience that when you don’t even know why you feel a certain way, the last thing you will attempt to do is explain your thoughts to another person. I used to think that talking to people was pointless. I thought that people were only concerned about my problems to be nosey, not to help me. I thought that there was no way out and talking to someone would in no way benefit me. I’m a very independent person and although it’s made me a stronger person today, dealing with my problems alone and with no help didn’t have to be the only way out. I could have been a lot happier a lot quicker if I just reached out earlier.

When suicidal, people will have a tendency to neglect relationships with people. Depression and mental illness has a funny way of numbing your emotions and making you almost careless of anyone else. It can change your entire personality and make you appear as a completely different person. Although the true person is still in there somewhere, their intrusive mental thoughts have ultimately turned them into a numb, emotionless person who just cannot be bothered to socialise and maintain relationships.

If your friend is perhaps neglecting their social group or spending a lot of time on their own, reach out to them. Make the effort with them to get them socialising, make consistent effort even after they brush you off because this kind of communication lets them know that there are people out there who do care. A simple invite could make someone’s day and remind them that they do have friends and people to rely on.

What you can do: although it is frustrating when friends constantly reject invites to socialise, it is important to always have an open mind about these situations. Try and understand that socialising is too difficult for them right now. Although they keep denying your reaches out, be consistent and don’t just stop inviting them places as this could end hope all together. Simple communication is so important to a persons recovery, never let your friends or loved ones feel even more alone than they already do.

6. How They Talk

As I mentioned before, it really annoys me when people tell someone to ‘just talk to someone’ if they’re feeling suicidal. This is because when someone is seriously struggling in a dark place, their communication can be completely off. I think it’s only something that can be understood by people who have experienced such an awful mindset. For suicidal people, socialising is seen as a pointless chore and can be so difficult for multiple reasons.

If you know someone is struggling and their communication suddenly weakens or you struggle to even hold a conversation with them anymore, this could be a sign that your loved one is struggling. It is so easy to just assure yourself that they’re feeling a little off or are maybe a little angry with you, but the deeper psychological issue is probably more than you can even comprehend. The main reason people don’t directly reach out for help when suicidal is because they simply don’t know how. What do you even say? There are so many concerns and fears that come with reaching out for help. I used to think I was unfixable so talking about it with anyone else would be a pointless exercise.

What you can do: simply be there for them, don’t just dismiss them as a friend if they’re being distant and quiet. If they’re displaying signs of struggling, you should help your friend and actively pursue them to join you in a road to recovery. Simply waiting around for them to ask for help is dangerous as it could lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of care system for your loved one.

If you know someone suffering from suicidal thoughts or if you’re struggling yourself, there are so many methods of getting help suitable for every situation. If you don’t want to face family or friends, contact Samaritans or Mind UK for advice on where to go forward. There is nothing braver than finally accepting you need help and commit yourself to a road to recovery.

I’m not personally ready to go into my own journey yet, but I can assure anyone who needs to hear this that life can and will get better for you. No matter how hard you view life and regardless of how unfixable you think you are, you have every right to happiness and you deserve to live a good life.

– Beauty by Disaster x