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.

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Behaviour is never from ‘bad’. It’s from ‘big’. Big hungry, big tired, big disconnection, big missing, big ‘too much right now’. The reason our responses might not work can often be because we’ve misread the story, or we’ve missed an important piece of it. Their story might be about now, today, yesterday, or any of the yesterdays before now. 

Our job isn’t to fix them. They aren’t broken. Our job is to understand them. Only then can we steer our response in the right direction. Otherwise we’re throwing darts at the wrong target - behaviour, instead of the need behind the behaviour. 

Watch, listen, breathe and be with. Feel what they feel. This will help them feel you with them. We all feel safer and calmer when we feel our people beside us - not judging or hurrying or questioning. What don’t you know, that they need you to know?♥️
We all have first up needs. The difference between adults and children is that we can delay the meeting of these needs for a bit longer than children - but we still need them met. 

The first most important question the brain needs answered is, ‘Is my body safe?’ - Am I free from threat, hunger, exhaustion, pain? This is usually an easier one to take care of or to recognise when it might need some attention. 

The next most important question is, ‘Is my heart safe?’ - Am I loved, noticed, valued, claimed, wanted, welcome? This can be an easy one to overlook, especially in the chaos of the morning. Of course we love them and want them - and sometimes we’ll get distracted, annoyed, frustrated, irritated. None of this changes how much we love and want them - not even for a second. We can feel two things at once - madly in love with them and annoyed/ distracted/ frustrated. Sometimes though, this can leave their ‘Is my heart safe?’ needs a little hungry. They have less capacity than us to delay the meeting of these needs. When these needs are hungry, we’ll be more likely to see big feelings or big behaviour. 

The more you can fill their love tanks at the start of the day, the more they’ll be able to handle the bumps. This doesn’t have to be big. It just has to be enough. It might look like having a cuddle, reading a story, having a chat, sitting with them while they have breakfast or while they pat the dog, touching their back when they walk past, telling them you love them.

All brains need to feel loved and wanted, and as though they aren’t a nuisance, but sometimes they’ll need to feel it more. The more their felt sense of relational safety is met, the more they’ll be able to then focus on ‘thinking brain’ things, such as planning, making good decisions, co-operating, behaving. 

(And if this today was a bumpy one, that’s okay. Those days are going to happen. If most of the time their love tanks are full, they’ll handle when it drops a little. Just top it up when you can. And don’t forget to top yours up too. Be kind to yourself. You deserve it as much as they do.)♥️
Things will always go wrong - a bad decision, a good decision with a bad outcome, a dilemma, wanting something that comes with risk. 

Often, the ‘right thing’ lives somewhere in the very blurry bounds of the grey. Sometimes it will be about what’s right for them. Sometimes what’s right for others. Sometimes it will be about taking a risk, and sometimes the ‘right’ thing just feels wrong right now, or wrong for them. Even as adults, we will often get things wrong. This isn’t because we’re bad, or because we don’t know the right thing from the wrong thing, but because few things are black and white. 

The problem with punishment and harsh consequences is that we remove ourselves as an option for them to turn to next time things end messy, or as a guide before the mess happens. 

Feeling safe in our important relationships is a primary need for all of us humans. That means making sure our relationships are free from judgement, humiliation, shame, separation. If our response to their ‘wrong things’ is to bring all of these things to the table we share with them with them, of course they’ll do anything to avoid it. This isn’t about lying or secrecy. It’s about maintaining relational ‘safety’, or closeness.

Kids want to do the right thing. They want us to love and accept them. But they’re going to get things wrong sometimes. When they do, our response will teach them either that we are safe for them to come to no matter what, or that we aren’t. 

So what do we do when things go wrong? Embrace them, reject the behaviour:

‘I love that you’ve been honest with me. That means everything to me. I know you didn’t expect things to end up like this, but here we are. Let’s talk about what’s happened and what can be different next time.’

Or, ‘Something must have made this (wrong thing) feel like the right thing to do, otherwise you wouldn’t have done it. We all do that sometimes. What do you think it was that was for you?’

Or, ‘I know you know lying isn’t okay. What made you feel like you couldn’t tell me the truth? How can we build the trust again. Let’s talk about how to do that.’

You will always be their greatest guide, but you can only be that if they let you.♥️
Whenever there is a call to courage, there will be anxiety - every time. That’s what makes it brave. This is why challenging things, brave things, important things will often drive anxiety. 

At these times - when they are safe, but doing something hard - the feelings that come with anxiety will be enough to drive avoidance. When it is avoidance of a threat, that’s important. That’s anxiety doing it’s job. But when the avoidance is in response to things that are important, brave, meaningful, that avoidance only serves to confirm the deficiency story. This is when we want to support them to take tiny steps towards that brave thing. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.l and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Brave is about being able to handle the discomfort of anxiety enough to do the important, challenging thing. It’s built in tiny steps, one after the other. 

We don’t have to get rid of their anxiety and neither do they. They can feel anxious, and do brave. At these times (safe, but scary) they need us to take a posture of validation and confidence. ‘I believe you, and I believe in you.’ ‘I know this feels big, and I know you can handle it.’ 

What we’re saying is we know they can handle the discomfort of anxiety. They don’t have to handle it well, and they don’t have to handle it for too long. Handling it is handling it, and that’s the substance of ‘brave’. 

Being brave isn’t about doing the brave thing, but about being able to handle the discomfort of the anxiety that comes with that. And if they’ve done that today, at all, or for a moment longer than yesterday, then they’ve been brave today. It doesn’t matter how messy it was or how small it was. Let them see their brave through your eyes.‘That was big for you wasn’t it. And you did it. You felt anxious, and you stayed with it. That’s what being brave is all about.’♥️
A relationally unsafe (emotionally unsafe) environment can cause as much breakage as as a physically unsafe one. 

The brain’s priority will always be safety, so if a person or environment doesn’t feel emotionally safe, we might see big behaviour, avoidance, or reduced learning. In this case, it isn’t the child that’s broken. It’s the environment.

But here’s the thing, just because a child doesn’t feel safe, doesn’t mean the person or environment isn’t safe. What it means is that there aren’t enough signals of safety - yet, and there’s a little more work to do to build this. ‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, it’s about what the brain perceives. Children might have the safest, warmest, most loving adult in front of them, but that doesn’t mean they’ll feel safe. This is when we have to look at how we might extend bigger cues of warmth, welcome, inclusiveness, and what we can do (or what roles or responsibilities can we give them) to help them feel valued and needed. This might take time, and that’s okay. Children aren’t meant to feel safe with every adult in front of them, so sometimes what they need most is our patience and understanding as we continue to build this. 

This is the way it works for all of us, everywhere. None of us will be able to give our best or do our best if we don’t feel welcome, liked, valued, and free from hostility, humiliation or judgement. 

This is especially important for our schools. A brain that doesn’t feel safe can’t learn. For schools to be places of learning, they first have to be places of relationship. Before we focus too sharply on learning support and behaviour management, we first have to focus on felt sense of safety support. The most powerful way to do this is through relationship. Teachers who do this are magic-makers. They show a phenomenal capacity to expand a child’s capacity to learn, calm big behaviour, and open up a child’s world. But relationships take time, and felt safety takes time. The time it takes for this to happen is all part of the process. It’s not a waste of time, it’s the most important use of it.♥️

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This