One of the biggest risk factors for suicide is substance abuse. It may seem like an addict who has gotten help, gone through rehab and is in recovery would be safe from suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, the addict in recovery still has a long and tough road ahead, and suicide is still a risk. If you care about someone in recovery and are worried about her state of mind, learn more about the signs of suicidal thoughts and how to help.
Substance Abuse and Suicide
There are many risk factors for suicide, including psychiatric disorders, trauma and stressful life events, but substance abuse and addiction are most important in many cases. Although the reasons for the connection are not completely understood, one major idea is the link to mental health. Substance abuse as a risk factor is second only to mood disorders like depression. Substance abuse is often a strategy for self-medicating for mood disorders. Someone with a substance abuse issue is more likely to have a mood disorder and therefore be at risk for suicide.
How to Recognize Suicidal Thoughts
When someone is suicidal, it starts with thinking. Suicide is not something that a person does out of nowhere. First she starts thinking about suicide, and then she may or may not make an attempt to end her life. If you are worried about someone, it is important to be able to recognize that she may be thinking about suicide so you can intervene before she makes an attempt. Here are some important signs:
- Talking about suicide.
- Talking about being worthless or a burden.
- Feeling hopeless about the future.
- Saying goodbye or giving away personal items.
- Withdrawing from family and friends.
- Getting access to a means for suicide (a gun, pills, etc.)
- Suddenly acting calm.
Preventing Suicide in Recovering Addicts
Understanding the risk and signs of suicide in recovering addicts is one of the best ways you can help a loved one. Recovery isn’t easy. Your loved one may be feeling really down after coming home from rehab. It’s not unusual to feel lost, to have no direction and even to grieve the loss of the addiction. To prevent suicidal thoughts, it’s important that the recovering addict continue with some kind of treatment. This could be regular attendance at a support group, working with a sponsor or one-on-one therapy sessions. Another way to prevent suicide is to stay close to the recovering addict you care about and to observe her behavior. Just having that close connection to someone who cares can help. Also helpful is to keep her busy with useful and rewarding activities. Help her find a job or go back to school. If these aren’t feasible, get her involved with volunteer work or new hobbies.
In spite of your best efforts at prevention, you may see signs of suicidal thoughts in your loved one. If this happens, you need to know what to do. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors should always be taken seriously. Don’t ignore your intuitions, and do speak up and talk to the person you think may be suicidal. Be calm, sympathetic and listen. Don’t argue or be judgmental, and never promise to keep it a secret. Get your loved one to her therapist for professional counseling. Sometimes suicide seems imminent. If you are worried that your loved one is going to commit suicide, don’t hesitate to get emergency help. Call an emergency hotline or take her to the emergency room. You won’t be blamed for overreacting, but you will regret not acting. Suicide is serious, and if you have concerns, speak up. You could save a life.