DISCLAIMER: This page is for information only and is not
intended to be used as a substitute for a consultation with a medical professional.
Emotional and behavioral changes associated with
Overwhelming Pain: pain that threatens to exceed the person's pain coping
capacities. Suicidal feelings are often the result of longstanding problems
that have been exacerbated by recent precipitating events. The precipitating
factors may be new pain or the loss of pain coping resources.
Hopelessness: the feeling that the pain will continue or get worse; things
will never get better.
Powerlessness: the feeling that one's resources for reducing pain are exhausted.
Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, self-hatred, “no one cares”.
Fears of losing control, harming self or others.
Personality becomes sad, withdrawn, tired, apathetic, anxious, irritable,
or prone to angry outbursts.
Declining performance in school, work, or other activities. (Occasionally
the reverse: someone who volunteers for extra duties because they need to
fill up their time.)
Social isolation; or association with a group that has different moral
standards than those of the family.
Declining interest in sex, friends, or activities previously enjoyed.
Neglect of personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance.
Alterations in either direction in sleeping or eating habits.
(Particularly in the elderly) Self-starvation, dietary mismanagement, disobeying
Difficult times: holidays, anniversaries, and the first week after discharge
from a hospital; just before and after diagnosis of a major illness; just
before and during disciplinary proceedings. Undocumented status adds to the
stress of a crisis.
Previous suicide attempts, “mini-attempts”.
Explicit statements of suicidal ideation or feelings.
Development of suicidal plan, acquiring the means, “rehearsal” behavior,
setting a time for the attempt.
Self-inflicted injuries, such as cuts, burns, or head banging.
Reckless behavior. (Besides suicide, other leading causes of death among
young people in New York City are homicide, accidents, drug overdose, and
AIDS.) Unexplained accidents among children and the elderly.
Making out a will or giving away favorite possessions.
Inappropriately saying goodbye.
Verbal behavior that is ambiguous or indirect: “I'm going away on
a real long trip.”, “You won't have to worry about me anymore.”, “I
want to go to sleep and never wake up.”, “I'm so depressed, I
just can't go on.”, “Does God punish suicides?”, “Voices
are telling me to do bad things.”, requests for euthanasia information,
inappropriate joking, stories or essays on morbid themes.
A WARNING ABOUT WARNING SIGNS
The majority of the population at any one time does not have many of the warning
signs and has a lower suicide risk rate. But a lower rate in a larger population
is still a lot of people - and many completed suicides had only a few of the
conditions listed above. Molli Mattison was a prime example of the in that
she showed no signs to her family. We learned after her death that she had
discussed it with friends previously. In a one person to another
person situation, all indications of suicidality need to be taken seriously.
So what's the answer in cases where signs are absent? - Education and communication.
Suicide should not be kept secret. It should be talked about,
discussed, researched, and especially a topic that families keep in the open.
If your child or friend tells you that he or she is depressed or feeling suicidal,
that is a huge first step and can be dealt with. If your friend or aquaintance
shares this secret with you, care enough about them to risk them not liking
you for awhile and tell and keep telling until you find someone
who listens. You do not want to honor the secret and be filled
with guilt and regret if the person completes suicide. Cal 1-800-273-TALK orl
the Crisis line, 1-800-SUICIDE if you have no one to talk to. They are trained