This may come across as a very direct question but have you ever thought of suicide?
Have you ever pondered it so much that it became a daily preoccupation? If so, you are certainly not alone. As hard as it may be to believe, most people have suicidal thoughts and you should not ever feel abnormal for having them. In fact, when I see my young clients, I often aim to erase the erroneous feelings and negative self-talk they have about their own thoughts of suicide.
This article will discuss warning signs that someone may be thinking about suicide. I will also include one of my recent webinars on suicidal behaviors and thoughts in children and teens.
I once had a mother ask me why her daughter would ever consider suicide. I remember informing her that suicidal thoughts are sometimes the only way a person can imagine a way out of their pain. For all humans, we look for ways to increase pleasure or happy experiences and decrease pain and suffering. While one individual may drink and use drugs to cope, others may think of ways to end all of their pain through suicide. For some people, using drugs, engaging in risky behaviors, having multiple and unsafe sexual experiences, gambling, overspending, etc. may be the best way for them to “erase” their pain. But for other people, it is suicide. All these behaviors are ways we try to cope with life when it gets painful. Suicide is no different.
The following are a few signs that you should be aware of if you suspect someone is considering suicide:
- Using “passive-death wish” statements: Passive-death wishes are statements that an individual may make to “test the waters” and to see what others may say in response to the statement. For example, a person may say, “I wonder what it would be like to die” or “I wonder how everyone would feel if I weren’t around anymore.” Sometimes these statements are made out of anger or vindictiveness but at other times, they are used to “survey” other people. “Surveying” other people is a nice way to gain information or determine the reaction of others by making an indirect statement. Children and adolescents often use passive-death wishes when speaking with adults. You can learn more about this in my webinar on suicide prevention at my website.
- Discussing a plan with high intent: In order for a person to be admitted to a hospital for psychiatric care, the individual must have a clear plan to commit suicide (i.e., cutting, using a weapon such as a gun, overdosing, etc.) and a high level of intent (i.e., a high level of motivation to complete the act). Sadly, hospitals act as “holding places” for people who are lethal or highly motivated to kill themselves. Hospitals are not safe havens that hold the individual until they are stable. Most hospitals keep individuals for 24-72hrs and discharge them with a plan for further care. In many cases, individuals who have a high intent to kill themselves often end up back in the hospital days, if not hours, later.
- Having a history of impulsivity and poor decision-making: Individuals who are impulsive or inpatient and have a history of making poor decisions, are often individuals who are lethal. What I mean by this is that these individuals are most likely to complete the act of suicide because they are often too impulsive or inpatient to consider the consequences of this final act and struggle to make sound decisions. These are the individuals who need crisis support and would benefit a great deal from having a crisis plan already in place. Those struggling with a long history of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, Psychosis (delusions or hallucinations), or high levels of anxiety are the most worrisome.
- Having a history of vindictive or emotionally unstable responses to stress: I once had a colleague who counseled a young female client with borderline personality traits and a history of oppositional defiant disorder say multiple times that she wanted to kill herself because her boyfriend broke up with her. She would call him and leave random messages on his voicemail every single day. Although he refused to respond and made his decision final, she continued to call him with threats of taking her life. He would then respond but later feel manipulated as her “suicidal thoughts” would mysteriously subside after speaking with him. This back-and-forth game continued until he recognized the pattern of vindictiveness and manipulation. Sadly, after she dropped out of therapy when her therapist pointed out this manipulation, no further contact could be made as she moved and changed her phone number.
- Writing or keeping a suicide note: A suicide note is often the ONLY proof you need that someone has strongly considered suicide. If you find a note, it is important to consider whether you should address the person directly, encourage the person to get therapy, or contact crisis support immediately. A suicide note is often a strong predictor of completed suicides including a history of suicide attempts and depression.
Have you had experience with someone who was contemplating suicide? Have you contemplated suicide yourself? Please feel free to comment below and share your experience.
As always, I look forward to interacting with you and I wish you well