Someone Close to You is Suicidal

Your family member or close friend has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder recently or perhaps a long time ago.  Possibly there has been no diagnosis yet but you have known for a while that something is definitely wrong, and have been coping with the mood swings as best you can. 

Every year 30,000 Americans commit suicide.  Another 300,000 attempt to take their own lives.  Many of those who die by suicide have a mental disorder, most specifically depression or bipolar disorder.

The symptoms of depression appear.  The affected individual shows signs of sadness, anxiety, irritability or hopeless.  He may hibernate in the house refusing social or occupational contact.  He sleeps more or less than usual and may often waken in the early morning hours exhausted yet unable to return to sleep.  He may feel slowed down like he is walking and talking in slow motion…or alternately he may be fidgety and unable to sit still (agitated).   Always tired, he may have feelings of guilt and worthlessness.  Problems with thinking, concentrating and decision making are ever present.  He has thoughts of suicide.  As the depression deepens and hope for ever recovering recedes the suicidal person sets his thoughts on ending his own pain.  Death may appear to be his only and ultimate choice.

Suicide is not inevitable however.  It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Rapid intervention and appropriate treatment for those at high risk can be life saving. The more that people learn about suicide and its warning signs, the greater hope for more tomorrows for more people.

Suicide Warning Signals

1. increased sadness, moodiness, being down

2. worthlessness, discouragement

3. withdrawl from friends, families and normal activities

4. specific suicide threats

5. letters, poems or essays revealing suicidal thoughts and preoccupation with death

6. persistent boredom

7. decline in work/school performance

8. violent, hostile, rebellious behavior in young people

9. ending close relationships

10. increased drug and alcohol use

11. failed love relationship

12. neglect of personal hygiene and appearance

13. extreme difficulty in concentrating

14. radical personality change

15. complaints about physical symptoms "headache, fatigue etc)

16. outright statements like "I give up,  it's no use, or nothing matters anymore"

17. putting affairs in order

18. giving away possessions

19. clear statement of desire not to live

20. sudden change to peacefulness in the person may indicate his plans are made.

How can I Help?

Many people have thoughts of suicide at some point in their life.  These can range from fleeting thoughts to threats and or a concrete plan for carrying it out.  Any suicide threat or attempt is a medical emergency.  React by staying with the individual at all times and phoning for help.  Suicide hotlines are listed in the front of the telephone book, the individual's own doctor if available or dial 911 for immediate assistance.  It is that important!

Two excellent suicide crises web sites are available on the internet.  One, tells you all you need to know along with email addresses and telephone numbers to use in a crisis situation.  I recommend that you familiarize yourself with the information presented here before you need to use it.

Anyone thinking of suicide, or caring for someone who is should read this page

There are ways you can help if the situation has not reached a crisis point as well.  Some of these follow.

You can see that your loved one is obviously very depressed.  The topic of suicide is not a taboo subject.  Ask directly whether your loved one has considered suicide as an option and encourage him to talk about his thoughts and feelings.  He may be very grateful and relieved for the opportunity to talk.  Ask concerned questions, listen attentively and show that you take the person's feelings seriously and truly care.  Contrary to a long-term belief this will not fix the idea of suicide more firmly in the person's mind.

Do Not try to analyze the person's motives or try to challenge them.  It is enough to know the thoughts are there.  Don't criticize him for feeling suicidal or offer trite reassurances or reasons to go on living.  He may very well withdraw from you if you say things like "you will feel better in the morning", or "look at all the things you have to live for…or even "your son needs you".  Suicidal individuals can be so consumed with emotional pain that they are unable to even consider anything outside of it. 

Do ask gentle questions if your loved one admits to having suicidal thoughts.  Try to find out if he has a definite plan in mind and ask for specifics.  The degree to which the person has made actual plans is an indicator of how great the risk is.  If he plans to take drugs for example, ask what kind and whether or not he has purchased them.  Determine if the person has access to a gun.  Discuss it with him calmly.  Don't be afraid to express your own feelings.  If you are frightened or sad, tell him.

Contact a mental health professional, preferably the individuals own psychiatrist or doctor and suggest that both of you come for a visit.  Advice the professional of the situation and ask for advice on how to proceed if the situation worsens.

Don't believe that people who talk about suicide never do it.  Many give definite indications of their intent to die.  Remove all firearms, drug stashes etc from your home.

Follow your instincts.  If you suspect that your loved one may act soon on an impulse, do not leave him and get him to a hospital as quickly as possible.

Death is an unknown…to the suicidal person a path to peace.  This is what one woman had to say about here severe suicide attempt from which she eventually recovered….

"I expected a lot more from death.  I thought it would be a triumphant feeling of peace and tranquility.  I thought it would be peaceful cessation.  All I got was oblivion and when I got there, I wanted to come back.  There are no answers in oblivion.  It was worse than being alive.  At least if you're alive you may find a potential answer".

We remember those who were unable to fight the demons and died by their own hand at our Suicide Wall
Please visit us there to read the memorials, or place a memorial for your loved one. 


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