The Depressive Behaviours that Could Warn of a Suicide Attempt

The Depressive Behaviours that Could Warn of a Suicide Attempt

The fallout from suicide is catastrophic. For every life that falls to the hopelessness and darkness of depression, there are the lives of those who love them that are changed forever.

Depression isn’t a choice between living and letting go. It’s what happens when someone feels there are no choices left. It’s impossible to understand for those who have never lived under the black cloud of depression. Similarly, for those contemplating suicide, it’s impossible to understand the devastation they will leave behind, should they go.

As much as we might understand that on an intellectual level, when you’re the one grieving the loss of a life lost to suicide, the depth and unpredictability of emotion that embeds itself into the inner walls of you is likely to be unspeakable – grief, confusion, guilt, anger, fear – sometimes insane, unfathomable anger – and the desperate longing to go back to that point and make one thing different. Catastrophic.

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 800,000 people commit suicide every year. 20 times that number attempt to end their life. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29 year olds. In the UK it is the leading cause of death for men under age 35.

Recently a large-scale international study, the BRIDGE-II-MIX, set out to identify whether or not there were patterns of behaviour that were often seen in people who were about to attempt suicide. There were. Let’s talk about them.

  • 40% of all depressed people who attempted suicide had a ‘mixed’ depression rather than just depression. This is where someone shows symptoms of depression such as fatigue, despair, hopelessness, indifference, apathy but at the same time shows some of the polar symptoms of mania or excitation, such as increased energy or a decreased need for sleep, elevated mood, faster speech, less inhibited, racing thoughts. The lesson is not to be fooled if someone you care about has depression and suddenly seems to be happier, or to have more energy than usual. Keep a closer eye on them, stay with them or seek professional support.
  • If a depressed person shows any of the following, their risk of suicide is at least 50% higher:

    >>  risky behaviour (such as driving recklessly, promiscuous behaviour);

    >>  psychomotor agitation (such as pacing around a room, wringing their hands together, taking off clothing and putting it back on) 

    >>  acting impulsively (acting on a whim, behaving without a lot of thought for the consequences).

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, there is help available. Nobody has to do this alone. Depression is a chemical imbalance and although a depressed mind can run a pretty convincing argument that the hopelessness somebody feels is a hopelessly permanent state, it’s not. Know that there is help available.

If you or someone you love is struggling, here are some important numbers. There will be people on the other end of the phone, or sometimes the internet, who will understand exactly how you’re feeling, and who can help you to find a way through:

If you live in Australia:

If you live in the US:

If you live in the UK:

International suicide hotline:

  • Befrienders (Enter your country to find an emotional support helpline)

8 Comments

C

Depression has dragged me by the hair and thrown me into pits of needles. I am one of the lucky ones: One who has tried and failed at ending life. Believe it or not, failing made me even more depressed. I mean, who can’t live OR die well?? I have a ready smile and hope for the future..it’s the day to day surviving that trips me up. Mental illness is no shit joke. It’s not feeling sorry for yourself. It’s not being lazy. It’s not playing the victim. Mental illness is a monster that only you can see and that you can never explain. There is never anyone to call, because everyone wants to tell you it will be okay. It will not be okay. It will never be okay. But ….. if you’re lucky, you wake up again and again and again and even when you are sad to wake up, it forces you to be strong for one more day. One day, plus another day, plus another….eventually it equals a full life. This is my aim. Live a full life!

Reply
Hey Sigmund

You are a fighter and you are meant to be here. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s important, so are you, and I imagine there will be many people who read it who feel less alone because of it. Keep working towards living your full life. You deserve it.

Reply
Ewa

Please tell me, is suicide something always assigned to depression or is there a risk that a man with anxiety may also kill himself? I’m worried about my brother who has a social phobia. Or maybe there is a lower possibility of commiting a suicide among people with anxiety disorders? I have anxiety too but I’ve never wanted to commit a suicide.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

There are other reasons aside from depression that people might commit suicide. If you’re concerned about your brother, I would strongly encourage you to call a suicide helpline and information line in your country for information and advice on what to do. Here is a link that will help you find the suicide information and help line in your country http://www.befrienders.org.

Reply
Butterfliesflytoo

Suicide is a topic that so many people tip-toe around. Its important that we share our stories and show others that they are not alone; whether that be as a person contimplating suicide or those around them.

Statistics dont lie. It IS a leading cause of death and its one that, as a society, we should be able to decrease.

Its important, however, that we remember the things mentioned in this article are not like boxes to be ticked on an assesment sheet. They are merely things that we shouldnt overlook or misinterpret. I think it is also important that we dont catagorise people as ‘not likely to carry through with it’, ‘just looking for attention’ or ‘bound to kill themselves sometime’. What i mean is, every thought or contemplation of suicide should be taken EQUALLY serious. That is, VERY serious. No matter the age, the circumstances or the number of previous contemplations. Just like ALL self-harm should be taken equally serious, suicidal thoughts should also be taken equally snd very serious as things can VERY quickly go VERY wrong.

Bev, Kim, thank you for sharing your experiences. Its like Hey Sigmond said, “You could never know the difference you could be making to someone’s life.”

Wishing you sll the best
X

Reply
Bev

11 years ago today, one of my best guy friends at work was found after committing suicide. He talked to a bunch of people at work for 4 years about committing suicide. He was on antidepressants but none of us really took him seriously because he had so much going for him. I had bailed him out of jail on the late evening on the 12th for a domestic abuse issue. We talked afterwards and I asked him not to do anything irrational and he said he wouldn’t–I didn’t want to put it out there about suicide. The day the police found him, my work brought in a counselor. He said that whenever someone talks about suicide and then doesn’t act on it, it is still always in the back of his/her mind. We were informed that suicide happens when the person feels he/she has lost everything. Because of the domestic abuse charge, he thought he lost his kids and he had already lost his marriage. I do not feel responsible for his death, but I have always felt regrets about what else I could have done. After his death, I have learned so much more about suicide and the signs of suicide. Thank you for your article.

Reply
Kim

Thank you for this article on things to watch for on someone with depression. My daughter attempted suicide a few weeks ago & took us all for surprise because we didn’t see any “signs”. These signs you list were nothing we were looking for, the upbeat & energy she presented with just before actually had us thinking just the opposite. We thought she was actually better. This is such an important tool to learn for the future. Thankfully my daughter is physically ok now & had great support. We are working together to help her with her depression & any information that may prevent it from ever happening again is greatly appreciated. I will do anything for my beautiful daughter.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Sometimes needs will come into being like falling stars - gently fading in and fading out. Sometimes they will happen like meteors - crashing through the air with force and fury. But they won’t always look like needs. Often they will look like big, unreachable, unfathomable behaviour. 

If needs and feelings are too big for words, they will speak through behaviour. Behaviour is the language of needs and feelings, and it is always a call for us to come closer. Big feelings happen as a way to recruit support to help carry an emotional load that feels too big for our kids and teens. We can help with this load by being a strong, calm, loving presence, and making space for that feeling or need to be ‘heard’. 

When big behaviour or big feelings are happening, whenever you can be curious about the need behind it. There will always be a valid one. Meet them where they without needing them to be different. Breathe, validate, and be with, and you don’t need to do more than that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days and some things are rubbish, and that sometimes those days and things last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. 

But the learning comes from experience. They can’t learn to manage big feelings unless they have big feelings. They can’t learn to read the needs behind their feelings if they don’t have the space to let those big feelings come back to small enough so the needs behind them can step forward. 

When their world has spikes, and when we give them a soft space to ‘be’, we ventilate their world. We help them find room for their out breath, and for influence, and for their wisdom to grow from their experiences and ours. In the end we have no choice. They will always be stronger and bigger and wiser and braver when they are with you, than when they are without. It’s just how it is.♥️
When kids or teens have big feelings, what they need more than anything is our strong, safe, loving presence. In those moments, it’s less about what we do in response to those big feelings, and more about who we are. Think of this like providing a shelter and gentle guidance for their distressed nervous system to help it find its way home, back to calm. 

Big feelings are the way the brain calls for support. It’s as though it’s saying, ‘This emotional load is too big for me to carry on my own. Can you help me carry it?’ 

Every time we meet them where they are, with a calm loving presence, we help those big feelings back to small enough. We help them carry the emotional load and build the emotional (neural) muscle for them to eventually be able to do it on their own. We strengthen the neural pathways between big feelings and calm, over and over, until that pathway is so clear and so strong, they can walk it on their own. 

Big beautiful neural pathways will let them do big, beautiful things - courage, resilience, independence, self regulation. Those pathways are only built through experience, so before children and teens can do any of this on their own, they’ll have to walk the pathway plenty of times with a strong, calm loving adult. Self-regulation only comes from many experiences of co-regulation. 

When they are calm and connected to us, then we can have the conversations that are growthful for them - ‘Can you help me understand what happened?’ ‘What can help you so this differently next time?’ ‘How can you put things right? Do you need my help to do that?’ We grow them by ‘doing with’ them♥️
Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
⁣
But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
⁣
When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
⁣
But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
⁣
What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
⁣
In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
⁣
#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare

Pin It on Pinterest