Most of the people I have talked to, know someone who has attempted suicide, or committed suicide. Looking back, it is easier to see the warning signs, but how do we become pro-active and intercede before someone comes to the place of killing themselves?
When we are aware of the symptoms and in relationship with people, it is easier to notice the signs of suicidal behavior. Mood, behavior, and speech are all telling signs to observe which will give us a clue to a loved one’s thoughts.
Depression is one of the biggest contributors to suicidal thoughts. When people feel helpless, isolated and in pain, depression is usually not far behind. Anxiety is another obvious sign, along with a loss of interest in life, anger, shame, irritability and even a sudden renewed outlook on life. When one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, they are in a very dark place. Once someone has decided to commit suicide and has a plan in place, they can appear to be happy and at peace, when in reality, they are even closer to committing suicide.
Isolating from family and friends is one key sign to watch for along with a withdrawing from activities and life itself. Other key behavior signs to watch for include: sleeping all day or being restless, giving away of important possessions, impulsivity due to cognitive impairment, daring or risk-taking behavior, difficulty adapting to change and a general hopelessness.
The obvious sign of suicidal thought is people talking about killing themselves or saying you would be better off if they were no longer here. The elderly are especially susceptible to feeling like a burden on others, being in a lot of pain, feeling like there is no hope or no reason to live. Listen and address their concerns, don’t just ignore their feelings.
When in doubt, ask questions like: Have you thought about ending your life? Do you have a plan to kill yourself? If so, reach out and assist them in getting the help they need. Sometimes just talking about it is helpful. We shy away from asking these questions thinking we don’t want to plant seeds, and yet, if we don’t ask, we won’t know, and can’t help. Once we know, we are in a better position to assist them and help them find hope for the future.
September 10th, is World Suicide Prevention Day. While suicide in the elderly population continues to rise, we as a culture tend not to be disturbed by this statistic. In fact, states like Oregon, actually have legalized physician assisted suicide. This has not only made it acceptable, it attracts people who may not have even considered suicide during the majority of their life.
Our hope at The Decision Tree of Aging, is that we will be fostering relationships with our loved ones and helping them live life to the fullest. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of resources online, including the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Take advantage of the resources around you, listen to your loved ones, and be aware of the symptoms, not just today, but throughout the year.