Suicide Prevention in Colorado Springs, CO
Let’s talk about dying… and learning to live! This article is about suicide. It is about wanting to no longer exist, to find that escape button, and leave. It is about those dark nights that stretch into weeks and months and maybe even years. Most importantly, it’s about wanting to find the sun again.
Because suicide thrives in the dark, let’s bring it into the light.
What Is Suicide?
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, the second cause in ages 10 to 34. Yet rarely is it about wanting to die. Nobody wants to die. Usually, it’s about not wanting to live. The human soul can only take so much pain.
David Foster Wallace described the decision to attempt suicide akin to a person caught in a burning building with the only way out being a window stories above the ground. The fall never stops being terrifying, but as the flames get closer, it’s a better alternative. It may seem like the only alternative. As he says,
It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.”
The first thing we have to do when talking about suicide is to realize suicidal thoughts are not a sign of weakness or cowardice. It is a sign of desperation, and we, as bystanders watching from the street, are not helping by yelling “Just hold on!” We do not feel the flames. So, what can we do? First, we can try to understand.
People with suicidal thoughts might be experiencing:
- Loss of hope- believing the pain cannot go away and that they cannot be helped
- Believing there is something intrinsically wrong with them
- Chemical imbalances in the brain
- Shame and guilt surrounding their thoughts
- Being exhausted all the time
- Feeling numb
- Isolation from social circles
- Might include bullying or feeling different from others
- External hardships like relationships, family issues or financial strains
- Feeling like they are turning their wheels and not getting anywhere
- Feeling alone, even with loved ones
- Mental illness such as depression, anxiety, OCD, substance abuse, etc.
Additional risk factors for suicide may include:
- Family history of depression and/or suicide
- Substance abuse
- Lack of social support – isolation.
- Loss of job, relationship, financial stability, etc.
- Physical illness
- Difficulty in reaching out for help; a “do it myself” attitude
- Barriers to treatment for mental health
Completed suicides are on the rise, up nearly 38%, since 2018. There are over two and a half times more deaths by suicides than homicides in the United States. Colorado has one of the highest rates of suicide, in the US. COVID has the potential to make these numbers worse, with social distancing being mandated and people becoming more and more isolated. Along with the national anxiety and economic hardships, the COVID quarantine has become the perfect storm.
If we are to beat this suicide epidemic, we must first realize there are more factors to it than simply feeling hopeless. Suicide wears a million faces and effective treatment must be able to adapt to each one. With that being said, there are ways you can help someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. The sun will rise, no matter how dark or long the night. The key is to let others help to rekindle the passion in life.
Building a Future You Want to Live In
As we said, beating suicide is not realizing that you don’t want to die, it’s about understanding how you want to live. For some people, the reason to keep going is as simple as a tv show or book series that left off on a cliffhanger, or their plants or a beloved pet that is relying on them for survival.
Whatever brings you joy, do more of it. You’ll find the more you do it, the easier joy will come to you. The more you want to live, the less death will seem like the only option.
Science has revealed protective factors when it comes to suicidal thoughts. This just means that people with these factors are less likely to experience suicidal ideation. The more protective factors and fewer risk factors you have, the less likely suicide is something you think about.
Protective factors include:
- Quality mental health care
- Connectedness to family, individuals, and community
- Feeling a part of something
- Aptitude for thinking of solutions and acting on them
- Adaptability to change
- Strong self-esteem
- Sense of purpose in life
The list above contains scientific and psychological results, it is not a judgment on character or person. Not having an “aptitude for thinking of solutions and acting on them” does not mean you are unintelligent or lazy, it might just suggest you struggle with breaking away from the path you are currently on. However, even this can change. We are all moldable, down to our very brain neurons. Change, in the right direction and with the right motive, is beautiful and crucial.
If you are a friend or loved one of someone struggling with suicidal thoughts, how can you help? First, protect your own mental health. Draining yourself for them will help neither of you. You’re not a firefighter, and you can’t fight their flames. Sometimes, all you can do is call a specialist and wait with them. Offer your presence and your support. Get them connected with those trained to help.
Things you can do to help someone through suicidal thoughts:
- Struggling with the thought of suicide can change our actions and way of presenting, but remember that you haven’t lost your friend/family member. Treat them as you normally would. Be aware of the signs of suicide and check-in with them frequently. Seek mental health support immediately if you think their thoughts of suicide are escalating.
- Spend time with them! One of the biggest protective factors against suicide is a strong community base. Be there for them!
- Offer to set up counseling or doctor’s appointments. Suicide can make it feel impossible to do anything. Offer to take this burden off their shoulders.
- Validate their emotions and thoughts.
- Make a plan with them to engage in life.
- Encourage being outside, eating healthy, sleep, being active, pursuing interests, and trying new things.
If someone opens up about their struggle with suicide – believe them. Do not question their truth. Act on the information given. You could save a life.
Of course, that leaves the final question. What are the signs of suicide? How can you know if someone is struggling? The suicide prevention lifeline website cites these as:
Potential warning signs:
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
- Looking for a way to kill themselves, as in searching online or buying a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or isolating themselves
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Extreme mood swings
Suicide affects millions every year. It is not a sign of weakness or cowardice. It is a sign that someone is struggling to find things worth living for. For those on the outside, we cannot possibly know how hot the flames are getting. But we can be there, love them fully, and reach out when the problem grows too big for our understanding.
And for those of us fighting the flames ourselves, if you’re looking for a sign not to kill yourself, this is it. You are loved. You are worthy. You are spectacular and you are going to shine this dark away.
If you’d like to schedule an appointment with a counselor, don’t hesitate to reach out to Thriveworks Counseling and Life Coaching in Colorado Springs, CO.
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If you or someone you know is in crisis or in need of immediate assistance at any time, these three options are available:
- Call: 844-493-TALK (8255)
- Text: TALK to 38255
- Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room.