It’s the brutal truth that when a loved one or friend commits suicide, those left behind struggle with shock, guilt, regret, and sometimes even anger. Why did that friend, child, parent, spouse, or sibling do such a thing? Even when the person leaves a suicide note, it often doesn’t answer everyone’s questions.
Dr. Alexander Lickman, a physician from Chicago, has studied suicide and spoken to patients who survived their attempts. He feels that generally, people commit suicide for five reasons:
- Depression. This is much more than a ‘case of the blues.’ Severe depression causes a pervasive sense of suffering along with the belief that there is no escape from it. Simply existing is painful, and after awhile their thinking becomes warped—ideas like “Everyone would be better off without me” start to take hold.
- Psychosis. Schizophrenia can cause malicious inner voices telling the sufferer to commit self-destruction.
- Impulsiveness. Often when under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or in the grips of anger, certain people become overemotional and irrational and impulsively attempt suicide. Often, they are successful.
- Helplessness. When someone needs help but doesn’t know how to get it, they may attempt suicide to alert those around them that something is seriously wrong. Often they choose methods they don’t think can really kill them, however, sometimes these methods are deadly.
- Control. Those who are suffering from painful, terminal illnesses with no chance of a cure or a decent quality of life often want to take control of their destiny and alleviate their own suffering.
What are the signs and symptoms to watch for?
While it’s harder to observe signs of suicidal thoughts in someone with psychosis and you can’t predict an impulsive decision, you can keep an eye on people who have gone through painful events, losses, or changes and watch for signs of depression or other changes in behavior.
- Look For: Changes in mood, like loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, bouts of rage or irritability, or high levels of anxiety. Certain behaviors, like increased use of alcohol or drugs, acting recklessly, isolating from family and friends, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, or giving away prized possessions.
- Listen For: Certain topics of conversation or comments, like being a burden to others, feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain, or having no reason to live. Obviously, people who discuss killing themselves should be taken seriously.
What can you do if someone is exhibiting these signs or symptoms? You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or contact a local mental health professional. In Western New York, call Horizon Health Services at (716) 831-1800 to be connected to a person who can help.