September is Suicide Awareness Month. Suicide rates continue to rise each year yet, sadly, the stigma
associated with Suicide remains. While all Suicides are tragic, serious, and difficult subject matter, it
should not keep us from discussing it as a community. Our society has a habit of focusing on the shock
factor. The shock makes one ask, “How could they do this?” rather than seeking education on what can
be done to help someone suffering from mental illness.
Here are some signs to look for:
- Negative Self- Talk: Use of words such as useless, worthless, or phrases such as, “No one loves
- Withdrawn Behaviors: People begin to pull away from the things and people they once loved.
Losing interest in hobbies or activities which were a source of happiness for the person is an
indicator that their mental health is declining. People may also give away things they value or
love to those close to them.
- Self-harm or Previous Suicide Attempts: There are different reasons in which individuals engage
in self-harm, however, one reason does involve experimenting with taking their own lives.
- Lack of personal hygiene: People who lose interest in grooming. Examples for men include, not
caring about their appearance or showering. Some examples for women can be something such
as no longer brushing their hair or using makeup (if they previously did so on a daily basis).
- Emotional instability: People may begin to show extreme emotions from one moment to
another. Mood swings ranging from anger, rage, depressed behaviors (becoming extremely
sad), crying spells, sleeplessness/insomnia, and/or anxiety.
- Engaging in risky behaviors: Fighting, sexual promiscuity, excessive drug or alcohol use.
No one chooses to suffer from mental illness. The people who experience these extreme emotions
which lead them to kill themselves most commonly have experienced some sort of unresolved trauma in
their lives. Unfortunately, for friends and family members those traumas are not usually shared with
anyone else. So, how do we help someone who won’t ask for help?
- Reach out to loved ones: Having people know you are there for them and love them is
significant for a person suffering from mental illness. Understand that if your loved one is
experiencing low self-worth they may feel like they are burdening others and not want to reach
- Spend time together: It may be difficult to get a person who is in a depressive mood to agree to
do anything social. Offer to come over, watch a movie, or have a game night. Bringing positive
energy and happiness around those in depressed moods can help them want to engage more
often in positive behaviors rather than staying stuck in their negative thoughts.
- Just listen: People want to be heard. They want to be validated for what they feel and why they
feel that way. Giving people an outlet to discuss their pain or difficulties helps them feel relief
and allows them to start looking for solutions to their problems. Try to be supportive rather
than telling them what changes they need to make ASAP.
- Suggest professional help: Normalizing mental health treatment is something that needs to
happen. People need to be able to seek out help when they feel mentally drained just like they
would if they had a cold. Suggest therapy to your loved ones and help them follow through with
getting help. Offering your help to take them to treatment or even participating in family therapy sessions with them provides the individual with concrete proof of your support for their wellness.
Losing a loved one is always a difficult moment, but it becomes more complex when Suicide is involved.
There are those who choose to use their pain to help shine light on the issue in an effort to prevent any
other families or friends from this type of experience. Keep talking about the issue. Educate your
children on the matter and encourage them to always seek help if they experience suicidal thoughts.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is effective in helping those with suicidal thoughts. Other therapies
which are trauma-focused have been shown to be effective and can be discussed with a trained
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please seek help. Call
the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at anytime at 1-800-273-8255, or call to schedule an
appointment with a therapist at 210-614-4190.
About the Author: Charlene Mesa, LPC