Suicide Connection: A Prevention Toolkit

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By Jennifer Scott with Spirit Finder; Suicide prevention and awareness advocate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Suicide is a last resort. For those who attempt suicide, they see it as the only way out of their darkness. Often, the pain they’re feeling is the result of mental illness and/or addiction. By working to provide support to those with mental illness and substance use disorders, we can reduce the number of suicides each year.

The Stats: How Addiction, Mental Illness, and Suicide Are Connected

  • 9 out of 10 people who die by suicide also suffered from mental illness.
  • Mental illness and addiction, respectively, are the number one and number two greatest risk factors for suicide.
  • A person with a substance use disorder is almost 6 times more likely than someone without a substance use disorder to report attempting suicide in their lifetime.

Avoiding Addiction: How to Cope with Mental Illness

People who are suffering from a mental illness are much more likely to develop an addiction, often as the result of self-medication.

Though self-medicating with addictive substances may help you feel better temporarily, they will actually aggravate the symptoms long-term, leading to addiction, and if the situation continues to decline, possibly even thoughts of suicide. Here are a few ways you can cope with your symptoms in a positive way and avoid self-medication and addiction.

Hobbies Relieve Stress and Calm the Mind

Train your brain to reach for a positive coping mechanism for difficult times. Hobbies are a great thing to use when you are struggling. Rather than coping with a depressive episode using alcohol, you can instead use a pastime such as doodling, writing, knitting, video games or any other activity that keeps your hands and mind enjoyably busy.

Find Fulfilling Work

Working at a job that is extremely stressful or unfulfilling can be a huge trigger. If you find that your job is negatively affecting your mental health, it may be time to update your resume and seek out another opportunity. Think about what kind of work will make you happy and fulfilled. For example, do you love animals? Perhaps you can become a vet tech or a professional pet sitter. Are you a foodie? Train to become a chef or apply at a local bakery. Whatever you’re interested in, chances are there is an entry-level position that can help you get in the door.

Meditation and Yoga Can Control Symptoms

Meditation, as well as yoga, are both centered on learning mental self-control. For the average person, the mindfulness that comes with yoga and meditation can reduce stress, stabilize mood, and generally increase mental wellbeing.

Your Diet Matters

When a person is lacking certain nutrients, it can have a major impact on their mental health. A well-rounded diet or supplements are the best ways to ensure that your body has the materials it needs to feel its best. Having a little extra of certain nutrients can also work to manage some symptoms of mental illness.

Exercise is Always Helpful

With certain mental illnesses, it can be difficult to get yourself into the habit of regular exercise. But if you do your best to make it a routine, it may become easier. Try activities that are fun yet still count as exercise such as hiking, yoga, or swimming.

Seek Help

The most important part of managing your mental illness and avoiding addiction is seeking professional help. If you feel that your current treatment is not working, find another healthcare provider.

Managing mental illness without help from a trained professional can be very risky, potentially ending in addiction. When you have proper medication or an effective form of therapy, you eliminated the perceived need to self-medicate that so often causes addiction in people with mental illness.

How Loved Ones Can Help

When you’re the loved one of a person with a mental health disorder and/or a substance use disorder, life can be very scary. It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re up against such formidable foes, but know that there are ways for you to fight back.

  • Know the warning signs.
  • Post information about crisis hotlines in your loved one’s home.
  • Confront loved ones who you think have an addiction.
  • Understand the connection between overdoses and suicide attempts.

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