As we return to school and prepare for fall and winter to hit us, it’s important to call attention to September being Suicide Awareness Month. School and colder, grayer weather bring with them lots of mental health challenges–academic and social stressors, seasonal depression, etc. Start preparing now to take care of your mental health in the months ahead and keep an eye out for signs of struggle amongst your loved ones. The CDC says that suicide ranks 3rd on the list of leading causes of death for those between the ages of 10 and 24, and the 2nd leading cause for those under the age of 35. In fact, 44% of high school students report having thoughts of suicide in the past year, so if you have two friends, it’s almost guaranteed that at least one of them, has thought about killing themselves. Being aware of your own mental wellness and being supportive of those around you could very well save a life.
If You or Someone You Know Is Struggling Right Now
Know the resources available to you. You can chat live with a trained suicide prevention Hope Coach that is available 24 hours a day. Or dial 988 if you’re having suicidal thoughts or ideations–this number will put you in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline where you’ll be connected with a trained prevention counselor. If you are in immediate danger of a suicide attempt, call 911 so that emergency personnel can come to assist you as soon as possible. These resources are always available to you, and knowing them by heart can also help you support a friend or family member in need of help.
Signs to Watch Out For
Two of the most common factors that lead to suicide in teens and young adults are drug use/addiction and untreated depression. Above all, if you are experimenting with drugs or if you feel like you may be struggling with mental health issues, seek treatment. Waiting to ask for help until things get worse could result in disaster, and you don’t deserve to feel like your life isn’t worth living. Know that if you or a loved one aren’t confronting a drug use or mental health issue, that’s like playing with fire when it comes to suicide awareness.
According to VeryWellMind, here are some other risk factors and symptoms to look out for:
- Health issues
- Lack of family support
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Poor social relationships
- Becoming extremely agitated, upset, depressed, and/or anxious
- Changing obvious characteristics of their personality
- Being self-destructive or engaging in risk-taking behaviors
- Changes in sleeping, eating, or other patterns
- Expressing hopelessness or a feeling of being trapped with no way out
- Extreme mood swings
- Frequently talking about death or dying
- Giving away possessions for no particular reason
- Isolation and withdrawing from social contact, especially if it's sudden
- Looking for and/or acquiring means to die by suicide, such as getting a gun or a lot of medication
- Making a point to say goodbye to people
- Saying things like, "I wish I were dead" or "I wish I had never been born"
If any of those sound familiar, it’s time to consider asking for help, whether it’s for you or for someone in your life. Don’t hesitate. The statistics aren’t lying. Risk of death by suicide is very real, and you may be able to prevent it by talking to someone before it’s too late.
How to Care for Your Mental Health
We learn at a young age that it’s important to keep our bodies in shape by eating well and exercising, whether that’s making sure you get enough veggies in your diet or joining the softball team. If our society is okay spending lots of money on gym memberships every year, why aren't we doing the same to keep our minds fit? Pay attention to your brain, just as much, if not more than you worry about your physical conditioning.
The good news is that one of the leading beneficial activities to help keep our minds healthy is exercise. You can take care of two birds with one stone, as they say! Working out can relieve tension and stress, but it also triggers the brain to produce chemicals that help it to process in healthy ways, alleviating a lot of symptoms of mental health disorders. If you’re already working out regularly, congratulations! You’re already helping yourself prevent suicide and depression. If you’re not, consider that an actionable way to help yourself. Start today! You don’t have to run a marathon–try a walk around the block. Add a couple of minutes every day. Soon, you’ll be noticing a positive impact on both your physical and mental health.
Other ways to benefit your mental health:
- Watch what you eat and drink. There is a lot of research to back up the idea that some foods and beverages can significantly impact how you think and feel, both for the better and the worse. For instance, of course, overindulging in alcohol exacerbates feelings of depression and anxiety. Even if a few drinks makes you feel better in the moment, the following day your body is forced to work overtime to replenish nutrients that were sucked out by the alcohol, leaving you exhausted and more depressed. On the other hand, eating enough protein can significantly reduce anxiety because a lack of protein can result in your body and brain feeling depleted. Do your research and choose things that will help you, not harm you.
- Prioritize sleep and rest. This might sound impossible with school, work, family, and friends all clamoring for your time. But when you ask your brain and body to function without enough time to reset and heal from the previous day’s demands, it’s no wonder you start to feel depressed, anxious, hopeless and alone. Do your best to get your 8 hours in and consider creating space in your schedule for at least an hour of additional rest per day to recharge.
- Educate yourself about self-care. It’s more than bubble baths and smoothies. It’s about building a life that prioritizes your needs and honors your limits. You need and deserve to be cared for, and nobody knows better how to care for you than you.
- Build a solid team. Who in your life do you think would rock a T-shirt that says TEAM [YOUR NAME HERE], and who would you gladly wear that T-shirt for in return? That may sound stupid or silly, but the point is to look around, assess your life, and make sure you have people who support you. That includes friends and family, but don’t forget about resources like doctors, teachers, and therapists. If you’ve ever built a D&D party, you know it’s just as important to have a healer as it is to have a fighter. Professionals got into their fields for the very purpose of helping people like you. Let them be on your team, too!
You Have a Lot of Amazing Teammates
Speaking of building a great team, we’re here for you too. At TheHopeLine, we essentially exist in order to help you and connect you to other supportive resources.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Jesus would quite literally die to be on your team, too. He spent His life spreading the idea that we are all worthy of and capable of great love and great joy, so seeing you or anyone struggling with the idea that life may not be worth living would break His heart. If you’d like to hear more about how His message is one of love, abundance, and peace, reach out to a Hope Coach today. There is no greater suicide prevention than hope, and it’s our mission to make hope accessible to you.
Feeling hopeless? You are not alone. Click here for 12 reasons to live that you may not have thought about yet to help your hopelessness.
If you or a friend need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, for free confidential, 24/7 help. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world. For additional help, please visit the suicide prevention resource page.