The current COVID-19 pandemic has required many people to remain at home and avoid in-person social interactions. The combination of anxiety over this illness and isolation from others can have a serious negative impact on mental health. Whether you’re struggling with depression or have a loved one who has been depressed, it’s important to know how to recognize warning signs of suicide and where to look for help. Keep the following suicide prevention information in mind to keep you and your loved ones safe.
If you are the one experiencing thoughts of suicide, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Even if you think you wouldn’t go through with suicide, you should still reach out for support to help you cope with suicidal ideation or thoughts in a safe manner. During the pandemic, it can be more difficult to meet with others face to face for support. However, talking on the phone or doing a video chat online can help you feel more connected to loved ones or others who can help you.
If you have a mental health provider, such as a therapist, you should contact them for help and see if they offer counseling over the phone if you can’t visit their office in person. If you are in crisis, however, you should seek immediate help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or by calling 911 if needed. This helps ensure that you get prompt care and support to lower your risk of suicide or self-harm.
IIf you are not currently in crisis, you should come up with a safety plan to help you deal with suicidal thoughts. This should be done in addition to getting help from a mental health professional. Your safety plan should focus on helping you manage suicidal thoughts as they come up. This might include the following elements:
- Writing down strategies you can use to safely manage suicidal thoughts and feelings, such as practicing deep breathing or another relaxation strategy or engaging in physical activity in your home or in a safe area outdoors while practicing social distancing
- Making a contact list of people you can reach out to for help, such as loved ones, friends, or mental health professionals and local crisis centers
- Creating a safe environment in your home, such as removing any means that could be used for completing suicide and eliminating things that could increase your risk of having severe depression or suicidal thoughts, such as alcohol
Helping a Loved One
When loved ones are struggling with suicidal thoughts, they might have difficulty reaching out to others. This is why it’s so important to know what warning signs to look for and what to do if you notice any. Your loved one might be reluctant to get help, or they might not know how to go about getting help or admitting that they need it.
If you have a loved one that you’re concerned about, make sure you stay in touch with them on a regular basis if you don’t live with them. If you are unable to visit them in person during the coronavirus pandemic, try to have regular video chats with them, since this provides some face-to-face interaction for them. You should also reach out to them regularly through phone calls or texts to check on them and see how they’re feeling.
If your loved one is willing to discuss their struggles with depression or suicide with you, make sure you listen closely to them and provide as much support as possible. You might offer to get in touch with a mental health professional for them or help them find a support group to join. If your loved one is in crisis, you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for help or call 911 if you believe that your loved one might be in immediate danger of harming themselves.
Acting quickly to get help when you or someone you love is at serious risk of suicide is crucial, which means being familiar with the warning signs. Some of these signs are easy to detect, while others are harder to recognize. If you or a loved one have been experiencing any of the following warning signs, you should immediately reach out for help, such as by calling a suicide national hotline. The warning signs to be aware of include:
- Using drugs or drinking alcohol more often than usual, especially for those who already have a substance use disorder
- Talking about not wanting to be alive or ending one’s life
- Researching ways to complete suicide
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness or feeling as though their life doesn’t have any meaning or purpose
- Having severe mood swings or sudden and frequent changes in mood
- Feeling like they are a burden to their loved ones
- Discussing feelings of being in too much pain
- Having sleep problems, such as sleeping too much or not getting enough sleep
- Withdrawing from being in contact with others, such as not reaching out to others online or on the phone during isolation
- Experiencing increased anxiety or agitation
Where to Get Help – Suicide Prevention Resources
Getting help as soon as possible helps lower the risk of suicide attempts. For some individuals, talking to a loved one might be enough to reduce this risk. For others, this means reaching out to crisis volunteers or mental health professionals. Some of the suicide prevention resources to keep on hand, especially during the current pandemic, include the following:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255: This suicide national hotline offers crisis support for those who are feeling suicidal 24 hours per day, seven days per week at no charge. Calling this hotline puts you or a loved one in touch with a local crisis center, so that you can talk to a mental health volunteer or professional and get additional resources as needed. If you or a loved one are a veteran, you can press 1, which will direct you to local VA resources
- Crisis Text Line: Connect with a counselor for immediate help by texting HOME to 741741. You or a loved one can chat with a crisis counselor if you are uncomfortable speaking to someone on the phone.
- Lifeline Chat: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers a chat service where you can start chatting online with a counselor right away when you or a loved one are at risk of suicide.
- Professional mental health services: Reaching out to a professional therapist or counselor in your area can help you get more personalized care on an ongoing basis. You can find these services with the SAMHSA Mental Health Services Locator. Even if you are unable to set up in-office visits during the pandemic, you might be able to arrange counseling over the phone with a therapist.
- Support groups: Joining a support group in your local area or online can provide you or a loved one with emotional support from other people who are experiencing similar struggles with suicidal thoughts and feelings. During the current pandemic, local groups might offer online meetings rather than in-person meetings. You can search online for mental health groups that focus on depression or suicidal ideation.
- Specific suicide prevention resources: If you or a loved one are looking for specialized help, such as if you are a veteran, youth, attempt survivor or a member of the LGBTQ+ community, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers information on specific resources.
If you or someone you love is at risk of suicide during the pandemic, don’t wait to get help. Reaching out to others immediately can help keep you or your loved one safe, especially during this challenging time. Keep in mind that isolation during the current pandemic is a temporary situation, and there are many ways to stay connected to others and protect your mental well-being. Make sure you’re taking good care of yourself by eating healthy, getting enough sleep, exercising, and interacting with others safely.