Warning Signs for Suicide

If you are not a therapist, it may be hard to know if someone is depressed or suicidal. Here are some warning signs to watch out for if a person may be suicidal.

  • Talking about wanting to kill themselves, or saying they wish they were dead
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as hoarding medicine or buying a gun
  • Talking about a specific suicide plan
  • Feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Feeling trapped, desperate, or needing to escape from an intolerable situation
  • Having the feeling of being a burden to others
  • Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends, family, and others
  • Has stopped doing and enjoying things that once interested them
  • Feeling like nothing will ever improve, that they will be stuck with the overwhelming depression forever
  • Becoming socially isolated and withdrawn from friends, family, and others
  • Feeling like everyone will be better off without them
  • When the person perceives the relief from suicide supercedes the mode of carrying it out.

If you are concerned someone is at risk for suicide, call a mental health, or medical professional immediately


What to do if someone is depressed or Suicidal

So, you have maybe noticed that someone you are close to is depressed and becoming more and more distant.  They barely talk to you any more and their demeanor and outlook on life has become continually worse. Maybe you are at a loss of what to do. You are concerned but you are also not a therapist and don’t think there is really too much that you can do to help. Think again my friend! There is something you can do. 

Although this person may be trying to shut you out, don’t shut them out. Here are some ways to help someone that may be depressed or suicidal.

~  Continue to call, text or visit them.  Let them know that you are there for them, and that you care about them. 

~Be empathetic and understanding about what they are going through if they talk to you. Sometimes listening and being present is one of the most helpful things for them.  Let them know you are concerned about them. 

~ Don’t be afraid to ask if they have been thinking about hurting themselves or have been thinking about suicide.  It may be scary to ask, but if they tell you they have been thinking about suicide, then you or someone else can help them get the help they need. 

~It is ok to ask questions, but telling someone that’s depressed that they have so much to live for, being condescending about how they feel, or trying to talk them out of suicide will most likely not help.

~You or someone else can help them get professional help in the form of therapy or medication.

Myths about Suicide

In the wake of Robbin Williams suicide, it is important to understand suicide and why people commit suicide.  There are a number of misunderstandings about why people commit suicide.

The first misunderstanding is that they committed suicide because they are selfish and only thinking of themselves.  This can be further from the truth.  If anyone has known someone with depression, you know how debilitating it is, and what a dark place the depression can take you.  When someone is at the point of committing suicide, they are not even thinking about themselves and the importance of their life.  Often, they truly believe that no one cares about them and that they will never climb out of this dark hole of depression.  It is not that the person considering depression doesn’t care about the people around them, but that the depression has taken hold so strong that they believe the only option is suicide. 

The second misunderstanding is that attempting to commit suicide is for attention.  When someone is contemplating suicide, their depression has taken such a strong hold on them, that they have far surpassed the ideas of attention seeking. If anything, they want the opposite. If someone is talking about suicide in an attention seeking way, then good for them.  They may be seeking help. Better to make people aware of how one is feeling and get the help than risk the alternative outcome.

When someone is considering depression, some people do consider their family and friends.  This happens in either one of two ways. Either the person feels like they are being a hinderance to their family and friends and feels like if they end their life, then they won’t be a bother anymore.  Depression makes on feel completely and utterly isolated. This substantially adds to considering suicide.  The other situation that can occur is that the person considering suicide is not being selfish at all, but does consider their family and friends, and this may help them hold on one more day longer.  In the end, the depression completely takes control and the feelings of living with the depression worsen to the point that they can’t go on, regardless of their family and friends. 

Depression is not something that you can control. It is a mental illness, that is biologically based when it gets to the point of considering depression.  Having biological based depression is the same as having diabetes, cancer, or some other medical condition.  The only difference is that depression is a mental illness, not a physical illness.  This relates back to my earlier article called Taboo! about the differences between a mental illness and a physical illness. Just as you need medication to help aid a physical condition, so does someone with depression.  You don’t call someone that lost their battle with cancer selfish, so why with someone that lost their battle with depression? Both are illnesses that completely took over, albeit the modes of losing their lives are different.

Instead of looking at suicide as selfish, consider the enormity of their depression and how much they are hurting when deciding to make this life or death situation.

If you or someone you know is battling with the thought of suicide, call the national suicide hotline at 1800-273-TALK.

If you or someone you know is dealing with depression, it is advised to seek professional help.

Frame of Reference

The other night I was seeing some friends.  In many cases, there comes a time in the conversation that a psychology question is introduced.  This seems to be the case especially with newer people I have met and learn to find out that I am in the field of psychology. I do not mind people talking to people about psychology. I do enjoy hearing other’s perspectives and having conversation about it. 

This one conversation was very interesting to me and thought I would share. I would like to make a side note in this article that I am talking about anxiety or depression that is environmentally related, not about people with a biological mental illness.   I will start with some background.  My friend that I was talking to grew up in a small country in Africa. He had experienced not having enough food, water, enduring war. His question was about trying to understand why depression, and anxiety are so prevalent in America.  From his point of view, it made little sense that these disorders were so prevalent due to his life experiences.  My understanding to his question is about each person’s point of reference.  Every person has different life experiences that mold them in their outlook on life.  Although it would make sense from my friend’s point of view that there should be less depression and anxiety in America, most American’s have not lived in a war torn country plagued with severe poverty.  Because this is the case, how can we as Americans even begin to really integrate and understand what this type of life is like? Since most of us cannot understand this type of life, we only have our own experiences to go by.  This is what frame of reference is all about. 

Each person has an overall expectation of what their life is like. When things go wrong, challenging situations occur or if there is a negative unexpected event, this can contribute to environmental anxiety or depression. Since each person has different expectations and viewpoints of life, there can be different reactions to the stress regardless of the severity of the situation.  The severity of the situation is relative to each person’s life experience. It does not mean that it is wrong to feel anxiety or depression. This is one main reason why Americans can suffer with depression and anxiety while situations are worse in other parts of the world.  So, when you are feeling down about a situation in your life, it is alright to feel that way. It all goes back to frame of reference.

Creating Positive Goals

Goals are a great way to take inventory of where your life is right now, and where you would like your life to be headed.  It does not matter how big or small your goal is, the point is just to start moving forward. Here are some ways to set goals and stick with your goals. 

The first step in goal setting is to start with goals that have something to do with your core values that you want to expand upon, or something you are passionate about.  It is usually a good idea to keep the number of goals to around three. If you feel that you can manage more, then great! Go for it! There are many ways to set up your goals. One way is to have a goal or two for different areas in your life such as financial, physical, emotional, spiritual.  By looking at different areas of your life, you can take inventory as to what you would like to work on. The next thing to remember is that if there is one area of your life that you feel strongly about focusing on, that is fine. Start with your top three goals, even if they are in the same category.  The top three goals shows the most importance of focus important to you. If you have a real yearning to work on your spirituality but you chose to focus on your physical health instead, you are not honoring yourself.  Having goals is all about taking care of yourself!

 Once you have ideas on how you want to expand yourself, you now need to figure out how to get there. Your goals should be positive, quantitative, and have a goal date.  You also need a plan for each goal. Let’s start with setting a goal. I will give two different examples. One may be, “My goal is to be a more relaxed person.” You can quantify a qualitative experience as being relaxed by looking at what makes you relaxed. Let’s say meditating makes you more relaxed. Your plan may be to meditate for twenty minutes every day. Your goal date may be to meditate for twenty minutes every day for a month.  This does not guarantee that you will be a more relaxed person after a month, but most likely you will notice a benefit to the meditating. This is a goal where you can set the same goal for a second month, or until you have noticed that you have become a more relaxed person.  If you do not reach your goal, by the date don’t worry!  You may need to reevaluate the time you may need to reach your goal. You can also quantify when you know that you have become more relaxed. Some examples may be having less anxious thoughts, not getting angry at people as often, smiling more, sleeping better. Decide whatever being relaxed means to you.

This is a productive way of working on your goals and sticking to them!

 It is also important that you are kind to yourself during this process.  Setting goals and working towards them can be unnerving. You are trying to accomplish something that you may not have done before and are pushing your limits. It is important to honor the process and take care of yourself. If you are struggling with a goal, is there someone that can help you, or motivate you, is there a different way of going about the goal? You can get advice for a plan from others if you need it.  It is also ok to give yourself more time to accomplish a goal. You may also start a goal and realize that there is a different goal that is actually more important to you. That is fine, just switch them. This is about you, not about being rigid to sticking to a goal that does not serve you as well.  If you listen to what is truly important, you will be in alignment with your inner and outer path.

A Time For Healing

I want to start this by saying that in no way do I expect this article to take away any pain people may be feeling about loss in their life . I do hope that this article can give some ways to cope and go day by day no matter what type of loss you are experiencing.   Although it is challenging to talk about this subject, it is very important to work on ways to help deal with the grief, no matter how little or much.

 There are a number of things that will help when dealing with grieving. The first is trying to stay on a schedule. This may not be your regular schedule, but to make sure you are showering every day at around a certain time. Often it is better when first awake, as it helps to get the day started. Next, get dressed. Staying in your pajamas only adds to the sadness you may be feeling. Getting dressed helps to get you in the mode of getting started with your day. The next thing that is helpful is to pick only three things that you will do in a single day. You may be thinking that you have a million things to do and don’t have the energy, or motivation to do any of them. It is better to do something no matter how small than not do anything at all. Ask yourself, “What am I willing to do?” Try not being hard on yourself if what you come up with is minor. Remember, you are going through something extremely difficult, so give yourself a break. You will get back to your normal functioning even though it feels like it will never come.  Doing things in your day helps you to reduce the constant thinking and distracts somewhat on how you feel. Having time to grieve is important, but trying to minimize the saturation of it throughout the day helps emotionally.

Ask for help! Take it easy on yourself.  This is hard for most people, but in times when you are having difficulty taking care of things you feel you cannot do, ask someone you can trust to help you.  When you are being challenged emotionally, you will end up feeling worse trying to manage everything on your own.

Even if you do not want to be around anyone, ask a friend or family member to be with you for some time in the day. This does not need to be a time of talking, but having someone there with you is a good way to be supported. It helps to feel a little less isolated. 

Getting outside each day is important to get fresh air and to get some exercise.  Getting your body moving, and getting fresh oxygen in is helpful to improve mood. Although the last thing you may want to do is exercise, ask yourself how long you are willing to be outside, maybe it is five minutes, maybe fifteen, whatever it is, it is ok. Something is better than nothing. You may surprise yourself by staying out longer than you thought. Bringing music or a book on Ipod is also helpful to keep you going. 

Take care of yourself. Drink plenty of water.  Eat foods that are natural and healthy for you. By eating and drinking healthy, it will reduce a physical toll on your body.  Take time to do things that you once enjoyed. Maybe it is reading, woodworking, bird watching, whatever it is, as long as it is positive.  Write about your thoughts, emotions, memories, understandings, or lack of. Give yourself extra time to get things done, and allow this of yourself.  Allow yourself time to cry, get angry, reflect, and give thanks for the time the person was in your life.  

Although these ways of coping will not take away all your grief, they will help you manage and get by day-to-day until things get easier. Until then ,take care and be well.

Am I Grieving the Right Way??

   Many people that come in for therapy due to loss they are experiencing often think that there is something wrong with them. They believe this because they do not have the classic symptoms of grieving. There is a common misperception that grieving is experienced through a lot of crying, all-encompassing sadness, and inability to function. Your grief response has to do often with the extensiveness of the loss, life experiences, faith and ways you typically cope with difficult events.   Even through the most difficult loss, there can many other emotions that take over, such as numbness, anger, shock or disbelief, fear, and guilt. There can also be physical symptoms related to grieving.  Some physical symptoms of grieving include, exhaustion, weakness, headaches, body aches, and nausea, to name a few.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. You can have conflicting emotions at the same time and that is normal.  There is no set amount of time that it takes to get through the loss.  It does not make you a better or worse person by the amount of time it takes you to work through the grieving process.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross came up with the five stages of grieving. These five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Denial, “This did not happen”. Anger, “Who is to blame?” There is usually blame towards people and blame towards God. Depression “I cannot do anything.” Acceptance “I can be at peace with myself and the situation.” Except for the acceptance, it is normal to have the other four stages happen not necessarily in this order.  The stages can vary in time, and you can also re-experience stages.  You may also not experience oe stage, and that is also fine. You do not need to go through all the stages to heal.

It is important to deal with the loss. Not dealing with it is like sweeping it under the rug. It does not go away if you try to ignore it.  Often times it will come out in other ways such as anxiety, anger, depression, panic. Even when dealing with the loss, there are many other emotions as listed above that can come up. Do not be surprised if you have become more forgetful, disorganized, loss of memory, slow at your work, or need more breaks than usual. This is all normal. As the grieving lessens, so you will find that you are slowly returning to your usual self.

Here are some other misperceptions to remember around grieving. Often people think that they have to cry. This does not usually happen when you are in a state of denial. Crying does not have to be an indicator that you are grieving. You also do not have to constantly be the “strong” one. Share that task with others. There may be a time and place to be strong, but it is important that it is not all the time, or that you are carrying other’s weight for them. You have your own challenges. You do not need to take on anyone else’s grief. It is also important to plan ahead.  Pay attention to what some triggers may be and find ways to manage if the triggers occur. Around important events such as holidays, anniversary dates or birthdays, it is nice to start some new rituals or new things that are done on that day. It is also a nice idea to find a way to commemorate that person. Some people will give donations, plant a tree, set up a memorial, do something artistic that represents that person, have a memory circle just to name a few.

It can also be helpful to go to support groups, seek a therapist, talk to family or friends about what you are going through. If you find that you are self-medicating with drugs or alcohol, it is a good time to talk to your doctor about medication. 

Do not underestimate the toll that grieving can have on you emotionally or physically.  Take care of yourself, ask for help and in time, the grieving will slowly lessen and pass.