600 percent. That’s how much more likely those who suffer from substance abuse problems are to end their own lives. This often occurs while they are in recovery and facing troubling emotions that they had been self-medicating with drugs or alcohol. For others, morbid thoughts are the result of a co-occuring mental illness such as anxiety or depression that underlies their addiction and exacerbates the symptoms. Whatever the case, they’re in an extremely vulnerable position and need your help as a friend, relative or partner. Here’s what you can do.
Recognize the Signs
Knowing what to look out for could mean the difference between life and death, so pay attention. Some of the signs are rather obvious, such as talking about wanting to die, buying a gun or hoarding medication, while others are more subtle. The latter includes having trouble sleeping and withdrawing from their social life and their interests, according to a writer with USA Today. You can learn more by talking to an addiction counselor and describing your friend’s behavior specifically.
Stop Enabling Behavior
This needs to be done regardless of whether your loved one enters treatment or not. Enabling refers to doing things for the addict that they would normally do for themselves if they did not give in to their addiction. It includes helping them pay rent or providing them food. As long you continue this behavior, your loved one will be unable to stand up on their own two feet and suffer from anxiety as a result of low self-esteem, which can trigger suicidal thoughts.
Those in need of help often rejectit out of a need to feel independent and self-reliant. That means that getting your loved one into treatment — whether it’s a rehabilitation center, a 12-step program or an appointment with a therapist — can be an uphill battle. Start by having a simple conversation at an appropriate place when they haven’t been drinking or using drugs, and approach them with empathy. Let them know that you are worried by their behavior and want to help. That may just be enough to get the ball rolling.
Stay Close to Them
Literally. Make sure they’re not left alone for extended periods of time. If you do not live with your loved one, be sure to check in regularly or try to get them out and doing things. That could be anything from having dinner together at a restaurant to taking a hike out in the woods. In fact, the latter could be just what they need as spending time outdoors and exercising have been shown to reduce stress, and that’s often the underlying problem linking their addiction with anxiety and depression.
Set Up a Network
Your loved one has other family and friends who have the patient’s well-being in mind. Get in contact with them so that you can share the responsibility of looking after the patient while sharing any observations about their condition. If necessary, you can work together on an intervention, which is a meeting where you gather together with your loved one and explain how much you care about them in an effort to get them into treatment. That may be the best option if the patient refuses to see a counselor.
Prepare for the Worst
In the event of a suicide attempt, it’s unlikely that the patient will willingly go the hospital, so it’s better to call 911. The emergency services in most communities usually send the police as well as an EMT ambulance in the event of a mental health crisis such as an attempted suicide. Both elements will decide together whether or not the patient needs to be hospitalized. Later, your loved one will meet with a psychiatrist and attend psychotherapy sessions.
As you can see, when you’re the friend, relative or partner of an addict who is at risk of committing suicide, your role is crucial as the stakes are high. Don’t let the pressure get to you, and pay attention to your own well-being as you need to be strong.
Melissa Howard firmly believes that every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, she felt compelled to create an organization called "StopSuicide". By providing helpful resources and articles on this website (http://stopsuicide.info/), she hopes to build a lifeline of information.