By Dr. Michelle Connor Harris, St. Raphael Counseling
Worldwide pandemic. Economic collapse. Riots and social unrest. Devastating tornadoes, hurricanes, and wildfires. So far, 2020 feels like the plot of some apocalyptic horror movie. If you are feeling stressed, depressed, or suicidal, you are not alone.
A recent survey of U.S. adults found that 40 percent of respondents reported struggling with increased symptoms of at least one adverse mental health condition, including symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder, symptoms of a trauma- and stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic, and having started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19. Eleven percent of respondents had seriously considered suicide in the month before completing the survey, with rates of suicidal ideation being significantly higher for people ages 18-24, and those who are Black, Hispanic, unpaid caregivers of adult relatives, and essential workers.1
This is an incredibly stressful time and we all need to be looking out for our loved ones when it comes to preventing suicide. Risk factors for suicide include, but are not limited to: family history of suicide; history of childhood abuse or trauma; previous suicide attempts; history of mental illness; history of substance abuse; Work, relationship, or financial loss; physical illness, chronic pain; easy access to lethal methods; feeling isolated and hopeless; and unwillingness to seek help due to stigma.
Suicide is a concern across all age groups. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34, the fourth leading cause of death for people ages 35-54, and the eighth leading cause of death for people ages 55-64. Although women attempt suicide more than men, 75 percent of all people who die by suicide are male. Men ages 75 and over have the highest suicide rate, followed by men ages 45-64.
There are warning signs to be aware of, some that are more obvious and some that are less obvious, according to the Bridges to Recovery website.
Obvious signs include: talking about dying or wanting to die; talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no way out of problems; mentioning strong feelings of guilt and shame; talking about not having a reason to live or that others would be better off without them; social withdrawal and isolation; giving away personal items and wrapping up loose ends; and saying goodbye to friends and family.
Less obvious signs include: sudden changes in behavior (depressed to happy and peaceful); changes in sleeping patterns (too much, too little); accessing lethal means (stockpiling pills, acquiring a firearm; emotional distance (detached from life, people, typical activities); and physical pain (unexplained headaches, digestive issues, or general body pain).
If you suspect that someone you care about is considering suicide, do not wait to act. Someone actively threatening suicide requires a call to 911 and should not be left alone. Otherwise, talk with the person and directly ask them if they have thought about suicide. Provide them with a hotline number or number for a counseling center and encourage them to call. Check back in to see how they are feeling and whether they have accessed help.
Obviously, if you are a parent to a child or teen experiencing suicidal ideation, you need to make an appointment with a therapist as soon as possible. If you are the person experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, please call the Colorado Crisis Services hotline: 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255
Colorado Crisis Services also has walk-in crisis service centers around the Denver Metro area. Visit www.coloradocrisisservices.org for more information.
Lastly, if you have survived the death of a loved one by suicide, please consider accessing help for yourself. We are here to help at St. Raphael Counseling: www.straphaelcounseling.com or 720-377-1359.
Dr. Michelle Connor Harris is a clinical director and licensed clinical psychologist at St. Raphael Counseling. Learn more at https://straphaelcounseling.com.
- Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6932a1external icon).