Signs Someone You Love Is Struggling With Suicidal Ideation Might Include:
• Giving away previously cherished items
• Saying goodbyes or writing farewell letters
• Choosing to avoid social interaction when they typically would have enjoyed it
• Purchasing a firearm or researching suicide methods
• Increasing substance use or abuse
• Saying friends or family would be better without them
Meghan Markle’s Interview Sheds Light on Suicidal Ideation
With the recent Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry top of mind for many, this is an important opportunity to talk about a very real crisis that we are facing in mental health now in Nevada and across the country and globe: suicidal ideation. In her interview, Markle said, “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore, and that was a very clear and real and frightening constant thought.”
Her disclosure has opened up a very needed discussion about suicidal ideation across social media and is especially relevant here in Nevada where higher rates of suicide have been reported in the past year. If you are wondering what qualifies as suicidal ideation, what you should do if you’re experiencing it and what to do if you suspect a loved one is wrestling with it, this MINDful Minute will help.
Although Markle’s experience pre-dated the COVID-19 pandemic, her expression is very relatable to many who have been facing similar thoughts since last March. The CDC said that U.S. hospitals saw a 6% increase in visits for suicide attempts from March to October 2020 when compared to those months of the previous year.
While the vaccine for COVID-19 is now being administered, many of the mental health contributors that have led many to feelings of hopelessness such as joblessness, isolation and fear are still affecting Americans, causing them to still experience higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation. Even before the pandemic, there were an estimated 1.4 million reported suicide attempts in the U.S. and 48,000 completions reported in 2018, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the country. It is so important that we all be educated and vigilant about the realities of suicide so that we can help each other through these difficult times.
What Is Suicidal Ideation?
Suicidal ideation can be any thought that would involve you no longer existing as a means of coping with your current life circumstances. This can range from wishing you were dead or feeling that it might be easier to not have to go on (passive ideation) to formulating a plan and means to commit suicide (active ideation). Whether your ideation is passive or active, I highly recommend that as soon as the thoughts begin, you do as Markle did to Prince Harry, and disclose your ideation with a trusted friend or partner who can assist you in seeking help.
Decreasing feelings of isolation and talking candidly about suicidal thoughts as soon as they arise can be preventative in saving your life as successful attempts are typically accomplished when one feels a combination of loneliness and an impulsive desire to carry out the act (whether prompted by a recent action or reflection of hopelessness).
If opening up to someone you know feels too uncomfortable, The National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255 and fields calls specifically for this purpose with trained professionals who can help to sort through your thoughts safely. You can also seek care from a mental health professional in your area by searching through psychologytoday.com.
What If a Friend Confides in You About Suicidal Thoughts?
If a friend reports their suicidal ideation to you, keep in mind how difficult it is for them to not only be struggling within their own mind, but also vulnerably opening up to you and take your role as their trusted friend to heart.
- Be sure to listen while refraining from the urge to judge, correct or invalidate their reasoning and recognize instead that symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental illness often override logic, making one feel hopeless and like there is no other way out.
- Always take a talk about suicide seriously and resist the urge to tiptoe around the details or avoid it altogether; talk as bluntly and openly about their thoughts as you can, urging them to disclose their plans if they have made them.
- If they ask you for a vow of secrecy, know that reporting their plans to a professional or loved one can be a decision that can save their life regardless of how angry they might be.
If you suspect that someone you care about might be suicidal, it is important to understand that research has shown that asking them about it does not encourage them or give them the idea. Instead, it shows them that you are paying attention and that you care. These can be a difficult conversations to have, but they may also be life altering.
Be kind and take care of each other. As the former Duchess of Sussex alluded to in her interview , we very rarely can know what someone’s life looks like behind closed doors regardless of their circumstance. So, always aim to treat each other with compassion.