Suicide is a serious issue that affects people from all walks of life. In 2013, suicide was the tenth leading cause of death for people of all ages in the United States. Additionally, an estimated 9.3 million American adults reported having suicidal thoughts that year. Generally, people who attempt suicide do not actually want to die. Those that survive their attempts often say they simply wanted a way to escape the extreme pain and anguish that comes with mental health struggles and suicide was a last resort.
If you are struggling with dark thoughts including those of suicide, you don’t have to face them alone. Getting help can be as simple as a phone call. In the United States, the Suicide Prevention Hotline connects struggling people with volunteers, many who have dealt with mental health issues themselves. Anyone contemplating suicide should call and connect with one of these volunteers immediately for support. Call night or day, 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
Suicidal thoughts can often sneak up on a person, but there are warning signs to look out for. Below we’ve highlighted some of these behaviors and signals that indicate mental health struggles that can create larger problems down the road.
Consistent Thoughts of Death
You may not necessarily be thinking of suicide, you may not even be thinking of your own death– but consistent thoughts about death, dying, murder, genocide, or any other related topic are a clear indicator that something isn’t right. Specifically, it may be a signal that your brain is experiencing a decrease in its serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that contributes to a person’s feelings of well-being and happiness. Prolonged stress and anxiety can deplete a person’s serotonin levels, leading to physical fatigue, sleeplessness, poor appetite, loss of energy, low motivation, low sex drive, worry, and anxiety. Low serotonin also causes extreme and obsessive thought patterns like those of death and dying.
You can help boost your serotonin levels by reducing the amount of stress in your life, exercising and eating a healthy diet with plenty of tryptophan-rich foods. However, if you make those changes and still feel depressed, you may need medical assistance. Talk to your doctor about your thoughts and ask him if a serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is right for you.
Feelings of Worthlessness or Hopelessness
We all doubt ourselves from time to time. However, if you feel like your life is pointless and there’s nothing you can do about it, that is a pretty good indicator that you are dealing with depression. Research indicates that feelings of worthlessness may be a predictor for suicide. Ruminating over past “failures” or embarrassing moments can lead to these feelings and cause the kind of pain and anguish that eventually leads to a suicide attempt.
You are not worthless. Your value as a human comes from who you are and not what you do. Everybody has their own gifts, including you, and those gifts have meaning whether you are aware of it or not. If you struggle with overcoming these kinds of negative thoughts, try talking to a friend or family member. Spending time with those who love and value you can help you release notions of worthlessness and regain a sense of value.
Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Many depressed people try to escape difficult thoughts and emotions by self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, self-medicating further contributes to mental health issues like anxiety and depression by disrupting your brain’s chemistry, thereby creating a dangerous cycle. In fact, there is a correlation between suicide and drug addiction and without proper treatment, drug or alcohol abuse can lead to reckless and life-endangering choices. If you notice you are self-medicating as a way to escape difficulties, it may be time to seek inpatient treatment that can help get you sober while teaching you about coping mechanisms that can help with stress, depression and anxiety. Doing so just may save your life.
Suicide affects millions of people all over the world, but many people don’t see it coming. Recognizing warning signs in yourself early on and getting help can prevent self-harm and the pain and devastation it causes. If you notice you are having persistent thoughts about death, feelings of worthlessness, or if you are using drugs and alcohol more frequently as an attempt to self-medicate, seek help immediately.