By Guest Blogger Melissa Howard

Have you ever had suicidal thoughts when faced with a difficult or stressful time? Have friends talked about death when they were going through hard times? If you answered yes to either of these questions, you or your loved ones may have experienced suicidal ideation. Although the term “ideation” may refer to only thoughts of suicide, those thoughts can quickly escalate into irreversible action. That’s why it’s important to know the following suicide facts.

Substance Abuse Can Lead to Suicidal Thoughts

Another behavioral sign of suicidal ideation is substance abuse. Most people think of the connection between substance abuse and suicide to be limited to an overdose scenario. In reality, however, issues related to substance abuse, like altered perceptions and mental health struggles, are more likely to be at the root of suicidal thoughts. Statistics even show that over 90 percent of suicides and attempted suicides occurred in people with histories of some level of substance abuse. Often, people seek solace in drugs and alcohol, but when substances fail to cure their sadness, they spiral downward toward more serious suicidal ideation.

Suicidal Ideation Can Vary By Individual

Simply put, any thought of suicide is suicidal ideation, but this definition is flexible in its application to different people. For some, suicidal ideation can be a detailed and researched plan. For other, it’s just a fleeting thought. Although most people who have these thoughts never act on them, it’s difficult for family, friends and loved ones to know what someone’s exact intentions may be. That’s why it’s important to know the warning signs.

Signs That You May Be Suicidal

If you are experiencing suicidal ideation on any level, you should seek help. But, again, just as your family and friends might not know the exact nature of your thoughts, you may not fully recognize your own suicidal thoughts. You likely already have a good sense of when you are feeling down, and what moods, situations and behaviors happen when you are at your lowest. So be more aware of these and write them down in your own words. By creating a list yourself, you take a huge step toward understanding your emotions, which is also a principal step in addressing them.

If you recognize suicidal feelings in your notes, you should reach out to those close to you, call a suicide prevention hotline, and speak with your doctor. Remember, suicidal thoughts are not symptoms that will get better on their own. They may only get much more serious if not addressed.

Signs of Suicidal Thoughts in Friends and Family

Recognizing issue with yourself is a process, but recognizing suicide warning signs in others can be equally challenging. Although it’s impossible to know exactly what thoughts someone is having, often their behavior, words and actions shed light on a troubled inner monologue. Drug and alcohol use is a nonverbal behavior that can indicate risk of suicide, but you should also pay attention to whether the person in question seems disengaged from social activities or hopeless in general.

Sometimes, those experiencing suicidal ideation do vocalize their thoughts, even if it’s not in an obvious way.  Someone who is thinking about suicide may simply state they want to die, even if they don’t come out and say they want to die by suicide. It’s also common for these people to talk in ways that make them seem like a burden to others. If you hear any of these statements from someone you know, or other talk that indicates suicidal risk, you can help by staying supportive and  encouraging that person to seek help immediately.

Getting Help

These days, the stigma associated with mental health disorders is waning, but that doesn’t mean people are making a more concerted effort to get help. Often, those with severe depression and anxiety are uncertain of who to turn to or whether they can even afford treatment. Fortunately, most health insurance providers offer some form of mental health coverage, but in some cases it may be more affordable to seek the help of a licensed clinical social worker, rather than a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Social workers are licensed and trained professionals who are able to diagnose mental health disorders, and they have extensive experience in treating psychosocial problems and helping patients learn coping strategies to restore mental health. If you recognize signs that you need help, review your coverage today or talk to your physician about connecting with a therapist. All too often, family members and friends look back and wonder what they could have done to save someone from suicide. What you can do is take the time and effort to learn all of the signs of suicidal ideation, for yourself and those around you. You can also better understand the connection between mental health and suicide so you can offer help and suggestions before it’s too late to save the life of someone you love.

Published by Doug

Douglas E. Noll, JD, MA left a successful career as a trial lawyer to become a peacemaker. His calling is to serve humanity, and he executes his calling at many levels. He is an award-winning author, speaker, teacher, and trainer. He is a highly experienced mediator. Doug’s work carries him from international work to helping people resolve deep interpersonal and ideological conflicts. He sits on many boards, including Mediators Beyond Borders, an international NGO accredited to the United Nations.