Warning Signs

If your gut is telling you something’s up, don’t ignore it

Elena describes why she’s worried about Manny.

It’s hard to think a loved one might become suicidal.

We tend to think things will probably be ok – and that’s usually right. But it can be helpful to look for the signs that someone could be in a crisis.

Have you seen the signs?

Sleep problems, using drugs or alcohol more, low mood, increased anger, withdrawing from activities and people…

All of these can signal a problem. Mental health problems and drug or alcohol addiction underlie a lot of deaths by suicide. We can’t always get inside someone’s head, but we often see changes in behavior such as sleeping habits and response to stress.

Relationship break-ups, job problems, legal trouble, health problems…

Stressors like that can put you in a tailspin. Break-ups are a part of so many suicides. So are life crises that make a person feel trapped or hopeless, like getting arrested, losing custody, losing a job, and financial crises. For older folks, it’s often multiple health problems and losing one’s independence.

Statements and jokes about hopelessness, worthlessness, feeling like a burden…

Sure, some jokes are just jokes. But some are serious. And the best way to know just how serious is to ask and really listen.

It’s ok to ask about suicidal thoughts.

“Does it sometimes get so bad that you think about suicide?”

If yes,

Don’t freak out. Listen calmly and show support. Click here to learn more about supporting someone who has suicidal periods.

These conversations can be challenging, and can bring up feelings that are hard to handle alone. Learn about how to get professional help for yourself or your loved one.

If no,

Not everyone–especially a Veteran–feels comfortable saying they’re struggling. No might mean no. Or it might mean, “I’m fine for now, but I’m getting there.”

Also be prepared that you might just get “I’m fine. I’m dealing with it”, which doesn’t necessarily mean no. Mention specific things that have you concerned in a caring, non-confrontational way.

If you feel like you might be missing part of the picture, remember that others care for the Veteran too.  Think through how you can learn more from others in their life.