Guest post by Michelle Peterson
Edit and Blog Post Design by Christy Zigweid
Photo by karosieben via Pixabay made using @WordSwagApp
Addiction comes with many risks, including impulsive or dangerous behavior, health issues, and overdose, but many fail to realize how a serious addiction can have a fatal chain reaction that could lead to suicide.
The link between addiction and suicide is a strong one, according to many studies done over the years. One such study showed that the strongest predictor of suicide is alcoholism, a disease which carries depression along with it; either alcohol exacerbates symptoms of depression that were already present, or it has a dark effect on moods and can lead to isolation, violence, or a slow decline in the individual’s ability to function daily.
For some, substance abuse is a way to self-treat depression, anxiety, stress, or emotional pain from big life changes, such as a divorce or death in the family. It may be the only thing that helps the individual sleep or cope with everyday events, but the truth is, drugs and alcohol are only making things worse behind the scenes. It’s estimated that the suicide rate among those who suffer from substance abuse issues is as high as 45%, yet it’s still difficult for many people to start the conversation with a loved one who is at risk, in part because the subject is so taboo in our society.
We are afraid to bring up the word “suicide” for fear that it will be suggestive, or that it will offend the individual at risk.
Another issue is that not everyone knows what to look for. Even trained professionals may have a hard time diagnosing someone with a substance abuse problem--or with depression--and establishing a safe place for the individual to talk openly about their feelings.
Photo via Pixabay by Unsplash
Although warning signs of addiction can vary from person to person, there is a general list to be on the lookout for. It can be especially difficult to differentiate between warning signs and typical changes in mood and behavior when a teenager is concerned, so be aware that if you think these signs are present in a loved one, it’s important to talk to them about it before you make assumptions. Bringing up your concerns won’t put ideas into their head about suicide; if they were already thinking about self-harm, however, having the word out in the open could be enormously helpful in moving toward a healthy path. Some of the most common signs include:
In talking to a loved one about your concerns, one of the most important things to remember is not to introduce guilt. Being judgmental will only make the individual feel worse, and it’s likely that if they do have a substance abuse problem or are having thoughts of suicide, they already suffer from low self-esteem or feel isolated. Let them know that they are not alone, and listen with a sympathetic ear. Statements such as “I’m so sorry you’ve been feeling that way” are particularly effective.
If your loved one admits there is a problem but doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you about it, that’s okay. You can still offer to help them find a counselor, group therapy, or healthcare professional to aid them in recovery. If you feel self-harm is an immediate danger, don’t leave the individual alone. Stay with them and call for help, and, if possible, remove any items that could be used as weapons or cause injury from the area.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273- (TALK) 8255
About the Author
Michelle Peterson has been in recovery for several years. She started RecoveryPride.org to help eliminate the stigma placed on those who struggle with addiction. The site emphasizes that the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride and offers stories, victories, and other information to give hope and help to those in recovery.
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