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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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‘Brave’ doesn’t always feel like certain, or strong, or ready. In fact, it rarely does. That what makes it brave.♥️
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #parentingtips
We teach our kids to respect adults and other children, and they should – respect is an important part of growing up to be a pretty great human. There’s something else though that’s even more important – teaching them to respect themselves first. 

We can’t stop difficult people coming into their lives. They might be teachers, coaches, peers, and eventually, colleagues, or perhaps people connected to the people who love them. What we can do though is give our kids independence of mind and permission to recognise that person and their behaviour as unacceptable to them. We can teach our kids that being kind and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean accepting someone’s behaviour, beliefs or influence. 

The kindness and respect we teach our children to show to others should never be used against them by those broken others who might do harm. We have to recognise as adults that the words and attitudes directed to our children can be just as damaging as anything physical. 

If the behaviour is from an adult, it’s up to us to guard our child’s safe space in the world even harder. That might be by withdrawing support for the adult, using our own voice with the adult to elevate our child’s, asking our child what they need and how we can help, helping them find their voice, withdrawing them from the environment. 

Of course there will be times our children do or say things that aren’t okay, but this never makes it okay for any adult in your child’s life to treat them in a way that leads them to feeling ‘less than’.

Sometimes the difficult person will be a peer. There is no ‘one certain way’ to deal with this. Sometimes it will involve mediation, role playing responses, clarifying the other child’s behaviour, asking for support from other adults in the environment, or letting go of the friendship.

Learning that it’s okay to let go of relationships is such an important part of full living. Too often we hold on to people who don’t deserve us. Not everyone who comes into our lives is meant to stay and if we can help our children start to think about this when they’re young, they’ll be so much more empowered and deliberate in their relationships when they’re older.♥️
When we are angry, there will always be another emotion underneath it. It is this way for all of us. 

Anger itself is a valid emotion so it’s important not to dismiss it. Emotion is e-motion - energy in motion. It has to find a way out, which is why telling an angry child to calm down or to keep their bodies still will only make things worse for them. They might comply, but their bodies will still be in a state of distress. 

Often, beneath an angry child is an anxious one needing our help. It’s the ‘fight’ part of the fight or flight response. As with all emotions, anger has a job to do - to help us to safety through movement, or to recruit support, or to give us the physical resources to meet a need or to change something that needs changing. It doesn’t mean it does the job well, because an angry brain means the feeling brain has the baton, while the thinking brain sits out for a while. What it means is that there is a valid need there and this young person is doing their very best to meet it, given their available resources in the moment or their developmental stage. 

Children need the same thing we all need when we’re feeling fierce - to be seen,  heard, and supported; to find a way to get the energy out, either with words or movement. Not to be shut down or ‘fixed’. 

Our job isn’t to stop their anger, but to help them find ways to feel it and express it in ways that don’t do damage. This will take lots of experience, and lots of time - and that’s okay.♥️
The SCCR Online Conference 2021 is a wonderful initiative by @sccrcentre (Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution) which will explore ’The Power of Reconnection’. I’ve been working with SCCR for many years. They do incredible work to build relationships between young people and the important adults around them, and I’m excited to be working with them again as part of this conference.

More than ever, relationships matter. They heal, provide a buffer against stress, and make the world feel a little softer and safer for our young people. Building meaningful connections can take time, and even the strongest relationships can feel the effects of disconnection from time to time. As part of this free webinar, I’ll be talking about the power of attachment relationships, and ways to build relationships with the children and teens in your life that protect, strengthen, and heal. 

The workshop will be on Monday 11 October at 7pm Brisbane, Australia time (10am Scotland time). The link to register is in my story.
There are many things that can send a nervous system into distress. These can include physiological (tired, hungry, unwell), sensory overload/ underload, real or perceived threat (anxiety), stressed resources (having to share, pay attention, learn new things, putting a lid on what they really think or want - the things that can send any of us to the end of ourselves).

Most of the time it’s developmental - the grown up brain is being built and still has a way to go. Like all beautiful, strong, important things, brains take time to build. The part of the brain that has a heavy hand in regulation launches into its big developmental window when kids are about 6 years old. It won’t be fully done developing until mid-late 20s. This is a great thing - it means we have a wide window of influence, and there is no hurry.

Like any building work, on the way to completion things will get messy sometimes - and that’s okay. It’s not a reflection of your young one and it’s not a reflection of your parenting. It’s a reflection of a brain in the midst of a build. It’s wondrous and fascinating and frustrating and maddening - it’s all the things.

The messy times are part of their development, not glitches in it. They are how it’s meant to be. They are important opportunities for us to influence their growth. It’s just how it happens. We have to be careful not to judge our children or ourselves because of these messy times, or let the judgement of others fill the space where love, curiosity, and gentle guidance should be. For sure, some days this will be easy, and some days it will feel harder - like splitting an atom with an axe kind of hard.

Their growth will always be best nurtured in the calm, loving space beside us. It won’t happen through punishment, ever. Consequences have a place if they make sense and are delivered in a way that doesn’t shame or separate them from us, either physically or emotionally. The best ‘consequence’ is the conversation with you in a space that is held by your warm loving strong presence, in a way that makes it safe for both of you to be curious, explore options, and understand what happened.♥️
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#mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #parenting

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