What to Look For— 5 Signs Someone May Be Suicidal

I knew a little girl once. She was twelve-year’s-old at the time, just beginning sixth grade at a brand-new school with different faces in a fresh neighborhood. She was weeks away from beginning classes—when it happened.

Her father killed himself.

This little girl’s daddy took his life in the basement of her childhood home. It was awful. The things I could tell you are tragic, the sheer pain and guilt that followed her for years was more than anyone’s fair share of heartbreak.

That girl was me.

The mental anguish that battered me for years after his sudden death gave me a sense of empathy for those who experience depression or any mental health issue.

I decided to use my life experience for the wellness and betterment of those around me. Turning a harsh reality into a positive outlook was and is a hard thing to do; for anyone, I’m sure. The only way I’m able to emotionally deal with his suicide is by helping others. It’s unfortunate life had to be this way, but I can’t go back and I can’t change things. In the very least, I’m a better person because of his actions. I am much more aware of what to look for now, and you can be too:

5 Signs Someone May be Feeling Suicidal

1. Withdrawal (McSwain, Lester, & Gunn, 2012, pp. (186-188)—this seems like an obvious factor, but few take this seriously or even notice. If you or someone you know no longer enjoys participating in once-loved activities and refrains from social opportunities, this may be something to be concerned about. Everyone has off-days and times where they wish to be alone; however, if the problem persists, there may be a larger and more serious issue at hand. It’s easy for things like this to go unnoticed in our hectic lives, but stay aware. Check in on your friends or family, even the “strong” ones.

2. Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol (Szumilas & Kutcher, 2008, p. 286)—Sure, not everyone who smokes or drinks has a mental health issue, but increased activity may be concerning, especially for those who become interested out of the blue. People with depression often turn to unhealthy habits as a means of coping with their thoughts or problems.

3. Giving away personal items (Szumilas & Kutcher, 2008, p. 286)—If someone seems to be giving up personal and important items suddenly, you may want to check in on them and their well-being. A suicidal person may feel the need to give prized possessions away to family members or friends as a token of remembrance for when they are no longer physically here.

4. Hopelessness (McSwain, Lester, & Gunn, 2012, pp. (186-188)—An individual that is constantly hopeless and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel should be taken seriously from the get-go. Many suicidal individuals feel like they have gotten themselves “in too deep,” and they often don’t know how to rise above whatever mistakes or problems they have encountered. They might find themselves drowning and don’t know how to “swim.” This is, quite literally, life or death. Any talk of “no way out” or “no hope” for someone should be brought to the attention of a parent, spouse, doctor—anyone really—so treatment can be sought.

5. Changes in appetite/weight (King & Vidourek, 2012, p. 15)–It is not uncommon for individuals with depression and suicidal thoughts to be showing physical symptoms. Mental health radiates on the outside, too, and that is often overlooked. Those with depression and who are feeling suicidal tend to lose or gain a lot of weight because they either; A. Use food as a coping mechanism or B. Cannot bare to eat because it makes them ill.

Obviously not everyone with these traits is or has been suicidal. Humans are just that—humans. We go through phases, bad days, off-weeks… sometimes we just aren’t our normal selves and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with imperfection. What’s not okay is when negative traits become habits. The need for concern comes when we find ourselves or those we love in a rut that we/they can’t dig themselves out of.

It is imperative to remember that those with depression and suicidal thoughts cannot control feeling the way they do. Please don’t question or make them feel bad about it. Mental health in our society is unfortunately not taken as seriously as it should be, but I think we become more aware every day. Warning signs are often ignored or overlooked due to the idea that “it can’t” or “it won’t” happen to those we love. I am living proof that it absolutely does happen, every year, to thousands of people. According to afsp.org, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,965 people die every year from suicide. To put that tidbit of information into perspective, that’s more than half of the entire population of West Chester.

If it’s you that feels suicidal, please try to understand that you aren’t in this alone. I know it’s hard. I know you feel isolated and empty. I’m so sorry. But keep this in mind: It isn’t shameful to ask for help or reach out when in need—plenty of services are out there specifically for crises. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7, where you’re able to speak to a live individual when you need it the most. The same service also offers a chat, just in case a phone call isn’t your thing. (I know it’s not mine.)

I didn’t go through this tragedy on accident. I’m a firm believer that events, even tragedies, happen for a reason. My purpose is to spread awareness in every way I can, to whomever I can.

Luckily for us, much information is readily available to those who need it, and you too can become an advocate for suicide prevention.

We’re all fighting the good fight. You’ve come this far—we need you.

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An Apology Letter to Her

I think in the midst of life’s changes I lost myself. I lost what I stood for. I lost sight of my goals, my dreams. The bigger picture once painted beautiful shades of blues and reds had crumbled along with my mental health.

I won’t pretend like I’m in a good state of mind— it would defeat the purpose of everything I stand for. Still, even on the darkest days, my message remains the same: we need you.

I wish I could take my own advice. Isn’t that funny? We have sound advice for everyone but ourselves. Humans are funny and incredibly sad creatures.

Firstly— I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I repeatedly fail you and treat you like shit. You don’t deserve that…no one does. This won’t be the last time I apologize. It’s a repeat offense, a cycle that never ceases. I long to be in love with you but most days I can’t bare to look at you. I don’t want to feel that way. You’ve come so far and there’s something to be said for that. Deep inside, buried underneath the rubble of our past, I am proud of you beyond words of expression. You need to hear that.

Secondly— please understand that success is not a race, nor a set destination. Little things can be considered successes too. There’s triumph waking up in the morning when the night before you wanted to die. There’s power in conquering an essay when you didn’t know if you’d pass or fail. There’s beauty in terrible things. Don’t let it go unnoticed. You will fail, (a lot, probably) but that is not a representation of who you are. Perfection is not the goal. There is more to life than making good money or getting a 4.0.

Existing is easy but living is hard. My mind is constantly gnawing at the “could have’s” or the “what if’s.” Pay no mind to those questions. They are not beneficial. They will destroy you.

Your existence is meaningful to people, even if some days you don’t understand why. There’s a purpose for everyone, so what makes you any different?

Try to understand that existence is not black and white. Shades of color fill in the void, even on the black days. Happiness is on its way— but don’t chase it. It is not a destination. Its just an emotion. Let it engulf you when opportunity arises, but understand that some days you won’t find it anywhere. That’s okay.

Everyone grows at different rates. Life is not a race, nor a competition. Don’t let society and social media tell you any different. Everyone is fighting a good fight. Everyone has demons that dim their light. We are all just trying to get by on what we have– including you.

Your existence is a beautiful, fiery mess. Let it be.

The Art of Pleasing Others– and Why it’s Bullshit

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Living is hard enough. Living for others? Bullshit.

Societal pressures, family, friends– they all tell us we need to be something other than ourselves.

If we don’t do this then we won’t amount to anything.

If we don’t lose weight we’ll never be attractive to the opposite sex.

If we don’t have kids, our futures are worthless.

If we follow our dreams, we’re irresponsible.

If we play it safe, we aren’t living. 

Quite frankly, it’s all bullshit.

I truly believe our early twenties are the roughest years in terms of trying to find ourselves. It’s painful to be pulled in fifteen different directions, silencing your inner voice for the sake of others’ happiness. We are afraid to branch out and see things for ourselves because we can’t handle the unknown. We are petrified of not being accepted. We are so consumed in other people’s (irrelevant) opinions that we often forget that our only duty is to keep ourselves happy and healthy.

When I first enrolled in college, someone told me I was “stupid” for studying anything other than computers or technology–words I remember being spoken like shards of glass in my back. It hurt to be let down, but it hurt even more coming from someone I thought I could trust.

Gradually, things began to change. I found something I was good at and ran with it. It’s hard to incorporate passion with career. It’s hard to keep your head above water when it seems like the whole universe is attempting to drown out your hopes.

Don’t let them steal your spark in life.

The day I enrolled in university, I knew I had to do it for me; regardless of what people thought or how crazy it seemed. They thought I was crazy for studying media and culture– but I thought they were crazy for not giving me a chance to prove myself.

The art of pleasing others digs much deeper than career choices or college majors. I’ve done a whole array of things that my family has deemed questionable; from relationships to my appearance to how I act or what I do. Its exhausting pretending to be someone I am not.

So I stopped.

I imagine it hasn’t or won’t be that easy for others in the same situation. I feel for them.

Truthfully speaking, I don’t owe anyone any explanation for why I do the things I do– and neither do you. It is not our job as humans to conform to what other people want. We need to do what’s right for us in order to grow and contribute as decent people. Being someone we are not gives the false idea that it’s okay to hold back.

It is not okay.

We aren’t doing the world any favors by keeping ourselves on a tight leash. The world desperately needs more authenticity.

At the end of the day, it is imperative to remember these three things–

  1. You don’t owe anybody shit
  2. You are you for good reason– don’t question your worth
  3. You don’t need anybody that doesn’t need you

When life seems to be getting too tough, too unbearable– keep going. We need you.

We really fucking need you.

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