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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Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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