Suicide and Substance Abuse: How You Can Help a Loved One

Suicide and Substance Abuse
Photo via Pixabay by RyanMcGuire.

According to recent studies, individuals who have been treated for alcohol or substance abuse are about 10 times more likely than members of the general population to die by suicide. The news is often filled with stories of celebrities and others in the public eye who battled a very private addiction and then ended their lives, leaving their loved ones wondering how it could have happened. The link between suicide and substance abuse clear, but what can we do to help?

If you have a loved one who is battling addiction and has signs of depression or has mentioned thoughts of suicide, it’s important to remember that they may already feel guilty or ashamed; pointing a finger of blame at them won’t help the situation. Instead, let them know that you’re there to help or just to listen, and do some research to get familiar with the symptoms of both substance abuse and depression so you’ll be better informed on what to look for.

Keep reading for more information on how to help your loved one.

Educate Yourself About Suicide and Substance Abuse

It’s important for you to educate yourself on why people turn to self-harm or suicide, what the symptoms of depression are, and how/why a person becomes addicted to substances. Knowing what to look for and how to react or cope will help you communicate effectively with your loved one, which is imperative when you’re trying to help them.

Know the Signs

Your loved one may have a substance abuse addiction if they:

⦁ Have sudden mood swings
⦁ Stop practicing good hygiene
⦁ Suddenly do poorly at school or work
⦁ Have physical presentations of addiction, such as trembling hands or bloodshot eyes
⦁ Experience painful symptoms of illness when they don’t use substances

Some signs of depression are:

⦁ Withdrawing from friends and family
⦁ Not being able to find joy in the things they used to
⦁ Sleep too much or too little
⦁ Talk about feelings of hopelessness

Some risk factors and signs of suicidal behavior might include:

⦁ Recurring health issues
⦁ A history of abuse
⦁ Mental health disorders
⦁ Extreme stress with a job or relationship
⦁ A history of self-harm
⦁ A lack of discretion when it comes to behavior

Refrain from Blaming

It can be difficult to communicate with your loved one about your concerns if you begin with accusations or attempt to make them feel guilty about their actions. The best way to help is to let them know that while you may not understand what they’re going through, you will be there to help, listen without judgment, and support them. After all, an individual who has an addiction has to want to get help before it will work.

Offer Your Support

Extreme stress can play a big role in the way people choose to cope; if this is a factor for your loved one, offer to help out in their daily life by picking up their kids after school so they have time to go grocery shopping, or offer them a ride to a counseling session; therapy and continued attention to good mental health are imperative for someone who has battled addiction even when they are in recovery. Having a friend they can count on may be the thing that helps them find a sober path. For more on how counseling and therapy can help your loved one, read on here.

It’s never easy to figure out how to best help a loved one when they are going through something so difficult, but it’s important to make an effort to understand where they are. Let them know that you’re there for them and try to keep an open mind, free of judgment. Remember to call for help if you feel your loved one is in imminent danger.

Melissa Howard

Melissa Howard firmly believes that every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, she felt compelled to create an organization called StopSuicide. By providing helpful resources and articles on this website, she hopes to build a lifeline of information.