How to Spot Suicide Warning Signs in Youth? Make Mental Health Your Utmost Priority.

mental health, remedial therapy, mental health services, mental health issues

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defined suicide as “death caused by self-directed injurious behaviour with intent to die as the result of a behaviour”.

“More than 7,00,000 people die by suicide every year among which 67% of the population was the youth (18-45 years)” of which 34% of suicides happened due to family problems, 7.3% happened due to marital issues, 5.6% due to drug abuse or alcohol addiction and 5.2% due to love affairs shows the latest data released by National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB). Research also shows that 90% of suicides in the youth suffered from the problem of mental illnesses in present or past.

Mental health disorders that lead to suicide are anxiety, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, eating disorder, PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder), personality disorder etc. Due to stigma around mental health and suicide, people use silence to cope with the confusion and uncertainty they go through and associate themselves with the feeling of confusion, sadness, anger, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial instability, disappointment and loss which unknowingly drives a person to commit suicide.

Even the LGBTQIA+ community faces mental health issues like anxiety, depression and are prone three times more to commit suicide due to prejudice, discrimination and negative sexual and gender identity.

It was reported that actors and actresses also who died of suicide went through depression and stress which lead to committing suicide.

Mental health issues go unobserved most of the time as we associate them with physical illnesses, hence it can be one of the prominent reasons for suicidal ideation not being spotted. Here are some ways to spot the warning signs of suicide in youth:

  • Verbal Actions: During any conversation, if a person says “I wish I was dead, I don’t feel like living anymore, I wish I was never born, nobody cares if I leave or die” etc., it’s important to take them seriously. These kinds of statements should never go unnoticed or be taken as a joke.
  • Change to calm demeanour: Suddenly person not getting affected by anything or everything around him and exhibit a general calmness or happy state can be a red flag.
  • Change in overall Behaviour: Sudden or prolonged change in behaviour like an uncontrolled impulse, feeling depressed, prolonged mood swings, lost interest in activities, aggressive or disruptive behaviour are passive signs of a person thinking of suicide.
  • Marks on the body: Active marks or scars on arms, deep cuts around nails, scratch marks on inner body parts, burning marks, unexplained bruises on thighs and chest.
  • Carrying dangerous objects: Object like a blade, knife, razor, in a purse or stored at odd places like study table or near the bed.
  • Withdrawal from socialization: Spending time alone and avoiding contact with close ones and friends, especially in the bedroom or bathroom.
  • Inappropriate Clothing styles: Wearing long sleeves in summer, clothes having polo necks in a hot climate, over long palazzo or jeans or wearing socks on a cloudy day.
  • Indirect self-harm: excessive eating, deliberately being in abusive relationship, getting into fights, involvement in crime, substance abuse etc.
  • Direct self-harm: Cutting, scratching, headbanging, hitting self, excessive nail-biting, hair pulling etc.
  • Disturbed Surrounding: Stressful environment at home, physical and verbal fights, being fidgety, unsatisfied relation with a partner, over responsibilities etc.
  • Substance Abuse: Extreme alcohol intake, chain-smoking, drug abuse in form of injections, powder, smoke etc.
  • Abuse: History of sexual abuse, rape, emotional abuse, domestic violence spots high risk of suicidal tendencies.
  • Previous Attempts: If a person has a history or trying to commit suicide, there are high possibility they will try again.
  • Social Media: Negative comments like “It’s better you don’t post your face”, “You’re so ugly”, You’re not worthy of likes and comments” can trigger suicidal ideations.

Some warning signs we oversee to spot Suicide in youth:

  • Joking about suicide talks: It’s important to notice if a person jokes about suicidal ideations often as it might mean some hidden message of help.
  • Giving away possessions: Creating a will, giving away assets or property so their loved ones don’t have to suffer.
  • Work or academic stress: Not being able to fulfil targets, low grades can create a lot of pressure and a person might feel suicide can end all the problems.
  • Acute loss or rejection: Loss of close ones, rejection in a job interview or marriage proposal can leave a person in doubt that they are useless and no one wants to be with them.
  • Imprisonment: Going through mental or emotional torture in jail due to other prisoners or inappropriate behaviour can trigger suicidal ideations in a person.
  • Exposure through fictional content: The end of the movie “Aashiqui 2” where Aditya Roy Kapur commits suicide leaves a negative message on youth that suicide is a solution to all the problems.
  • Feeling out of control: Things or situations not in favour of how a person planned makes it difficult to cope and things get out of control. The person feels their opinions don’t matter and their absence can make everything fine.
  • Changed eating patterns: Sudden weight loss might be a significant warning person having suicidal ideations or thoughts.
  • Irregular sleep patterns: Oversleeping, taking many sleeping pills etc are also serious warning signs of trying to commit suicide.
  • Lack of enthusiasm: Lost interest in activities, feeling sad or lost in thoughts can also be considered as a warning sign and need to be checked upon.
  • Emotional neglect: A person neglected by primary caregivers or a partner can have a traumatic impact and trigger a person with suicidal ideations.
  • Negative view of self: History of bullying or being left out, body image issues, low self-confidence are positive warning signs which can make a person feel suicidal.
  • Harassment: Senior misbehaving, threats of getting fired, asking to stay late in office etc can make a person feel terrible and lead to take a step of committing suicide.
  • Browser History: A person’s search history including ways to die, materials to commit suicide are serious red flags.
  • Saying “Goodbye”: A person visiting families/friends or closed once with an act of saying goodbye

There are suicide occurring every hour around the globe. We as mental health professionals have the power to stop the menace by providing the space where people vulnerable to suicide can talk openly, empathise, express their feelings and problems without the fear of being judged. A detailed MSE (Mental State Examination) can help with a deeper understanding of any such signs and symptoms among individuals. Seek help before it’s too late.

Throwing our book of life in the fire is no solution. Life is a precious gift we can use to our fullest. As mental health professionals, we have the opportunity to encourage the person to seek therapy so let’s come together and make a difference.

Also read about Remedial Therapy here:

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Heena Shethia
Psychologist, Cell Management
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