We all experience difficulties at times, and for some, the hardships of life can feel like too much to bear. How do you know when you or a loved one is reaching their limit and at risk for suicide? Be aware of the warning signs and take steps to improve emotional wellness.
Who is at risk? There is no one segment of the population that chooses to end their life. Suicide is not limited by background, social standing, age or gender.
Risk factors. According to Psychology Today, the following factors can increase the risk for suicide:
- Alcohol or substance abuse
- Mental health issues
- Chronic or serious health concerns or chronic pain
- Recent stressful life events, such as divorce, job loss or death of a loved one
- Trouble at work or in school
- Chronic stress such as being subject to bullying or relationship trouble
- Financial difficulties
- Access to drugs or weapons
- History of self-harm or suicide attempts
Warning signs. Warning signs indicate someone is already contemplating suicide and there should be immediate intervention. Crisis centers are available at any time, day or night. If you or a loved one exhibits any of the following signs, please seek help immediately:
- Sudden increase in abuse of alcohol or substances
- Acting recklessly or impulsively, such as dangerous, erratic driving
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Talking about being a burden
- Talking about death
- Expressions of hopelessness or feeling trapped
- Expressions of despair
- Sleeping excessively or too little
- Giving away once treasured belongings
- Saying goodbyes to friends or family
- General depression or anxiety
- Mood swings and rages
- Sudden peacefulness
Improve emotional wellness. There is no reason you or a loved one should suffer. As some professionals explain, with good self-care, oftentimes mental health issues can improve, keeping stress, depression and anxiety at bay. Make sure you eat a nutritious, balanced diet, get enough sleep every night, maintain a support network with family and friends, and engage in an exercise routine you enjoy.
Also, you should participate in a hobby and relaxing activities. Think of things you used to do and stopped taking time for including reading, gardening or photography, and revisit them. Or, pursue an interest you considered but never tried. Find something you look forward to doing and enjoy it.
Finally, speak to your doctor about possibly getting counseling or therapy. Despite the stigma surrounding these options, they can make a very big difference in your life. However, check your insurance coverage to see what options you have available to you. Fortunately for seniors who are enrolled in Medicare, the cost of counseling is covered, as is a yearly depression screening through your primary care physician. For those seniors who have Medicare Advantage plans, like those available through UnitedHealthcare, counseling will be covered as well as some prescriptions which can support their treatment.
Seasonal affective disorder. Some people suffer from depression during the dark, cold days of winter. This condition is called seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. Symptoms include reduced energy, hopelessness, depression, inability to focus, and changes in sleeping and eating habits. Typically, when spring comes, symptoms lift. The reduced amount of daylight we receive in winter is felt to be the cause of SAD. If you find that every year the same pattern occurs for you or someone you love, SAD may be the reason.
SAD sufferers can find relief through light box therapy. By spending about a half hour every day sitting next to a light box that mimics sunshine, sufferers can often find relief. Interacting with nature is also shown to be a boon, so adding houseplants or enjoying greenhouse gardening can help. If you’re feeling down, changing the colors in the rooms where you spend a lot of time can lift your spirits; opt for cheerful, mood-boosting hues. Some experts advise that talk therapy, behavioral therapy or medication may be required by some SAD sufferers. If you suspect you are suffering from SAD, discuss the situation with your physician.
Don’t wait. When you or a loved one is struggling, it’s important to act. Take steps to improve emotional health and participate in self-care. Recognize risk factors, look for warning signs and reach out for help before a tragedy occurs.