How to Help Prevent & Treat Suicidal Thoughts

November 10, 2016

Social isolation and feeling very lonely, trapped and hopeless are some of the most common warning signs that someone could be heading toward having suicidal thoughts. Every year in the U.S. alone there are more than 40,000 completed suicides and many more partial attempts. Millions of family members, friends, teachers and therapists are left behind in the wake of such suicidal actions, wondering what could have possibly been done to prevent them.

Some reports show that hundreds of thousands of people attempt suicide each year, most of which suffer from major depression beforehand, but might never have been diagnosed. It’s estimated that 25 percent to 35 percent of all suicides are directly due to depression. While not every person with depression has suicidal thoughts, when depression becomes severe and remains untreated, it’s possible it can escalate to this point.

Because a high percentage of people who attempt suicide and also might be depressed and commonly display other behavioral problems (such as having high amounts of anxiety or issues with substance abuse), certain warning signs are usually apparent prior to a suicide. Learning about the common warning signs of suicidal thoughts, along with other symptoms of major depression, can help you prevent suicidal episodes in someone who’s at risk.

What Are Suicidal Thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts involve contemplating taking one’s own life, usually along with experiencing other symptoms of depression or behavioral changes. For many who have suicidal thoughts, depression results as a reaction to trauma or a series of tragic life events. (1) It’s also been found that drug and alcohol abuse can worsen depression and make suicide more likely. One large study involving more than 43,000 people in the U.S. found that among those who are the most depressed, approximately 20 percent also have substance abuse problems involving illegal drugs, prescriptions and alcohol.

Another surprising finding is that a high percentage of people with severe depression who might be at risk for suicide also display symptoms of other illnesses that might seem unrelated to mood changes. These include having stomach ulcers, IBS, speech disorders, arthritis and skin problems — which like depression or other mental health problems are actually rooted in high amounts of stress and inflammation.

Sometimes having a serious illness, like a cognitive disorder or cancer, for example, or even very old age can lead to depression and possibly suicidal behavior. And unfortunately, it’s a vicious cycle because the more depressed and stressed someone gets, usually the more that person’s overall health continues to decline.

Symptoms and Warning Signs Someone Is Having Suicidal Thoughts

Many patients with major depression have the perception that they’re totally alone, there is no one to listen to them or understand their problems, and that it’s impossible to find their way back to a hopeful, happier place.

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