Addiction and Suicide: Understanding Risks to Help a Loved One in Need

Many risk factors increase the risk of both addiction and suicide. Many of the same factors that make someone likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, such as a history of abuse, chronic pain, and other factors, can also make someone more likely to attempt suicide. And yes, that includes going through a divorce or a serious break up. In fact, people who’ve gone through a divorce are three times more likely to commit suicide than those who haven’t.

Of course, it is possible to be suicidal without any of these risk factors – but the more risk factors someone has, the greater the likelihood that a person will struggle with suicidal thoughts. Knowing the risk factors can help prepare you to handle loved ones who may be struggling or even help yourself.

Addiction’s Role in Suicide

People who abuse substances, including alcohol, are at risk for suicidal tendencies. Addiction is harmful on many levels depending on the substance. Alcohol abuse is naturally a depressant and often is not treated as seriously as it should be. Alcohol, as opposed to hard drugs, is socially accepted and is less recognized as problematic. Addiction not only increases the risk of suicide but also accidental death due to overdose.

However, addiction, regardless of substance, increases isolation and negative self-image. Treatment for addiction may be therapy, rehabilitation centers, or support groups but once an addiction is identified, treatment must take place in order to prevent worsening mental health. There are several factors, a few of which are described below, which increase the risk of both addiction and suicide.

1.History of Abuse

Victims of abuse are more likely than most to become depressed and suffer from feelings of helplessness. It is critical that people who have been abused seek counseling. Addiction is a common problem abused children suffer from as they enter adulthood which then often leads to suicidal thoughts. Without coping mechanisms, it is all too easy to spiral downward, resulting in suicidal tendencies.

2.Chronic Illness and Pain

When a person learns that they will have to live the rest of their life with illness or pain, they become far more likely to experience suicidal thoughts. That hopeless feeling can take over when they learn there is no escape from their illness and they may consider suicide as an “escape”. Counseling and support groups are necessary if depression sets in after a diagnosis.

3.Mental Illness

Mental illness is often linked with suicidal thoughts. Depression is, of course, the leading illness that is associated with suicide but others such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety, and general mood disorders can also be linked. Even if the person in question isn’t exhibiting any signs of mental illness, a family history can also be a risk factor. Identifying and treating any mental illnesses are the two main priorities when preventing suicides. Whether “treatment” means therapy or medication, working to mitigate any detrimental aspects of a mental illness is important.

4.Incarceration

When a person is incarcerated, they are kept in conditions that foster depression; solitude, prohibition of contact. Even when they have left the prison system, the potential for suicide is still present. Finding treatment while incarcerated can be problematic, but receiving counseling is hugely important. Support groups are another viable option both in and outside of prison.

Knowing the risk factors may not prepare you to support a loved one, but it can certainly get you on the right track. Knowing when your loved one is at risk is the first step to getting them help. Keep in mind that you do not need to be their sole source of support. When you identify a risk factor, you shouldn’t be afraid to seek professional advice. Referring your loved one to a trained professional may be the best thing you can do for them. Having someone acknowledge their problems can be the thing that changes their life for the better.

Jennifer Woodson enjoys serving the public as a writer for PublicHealthCorps.org. The site is dedicated to putting the public back into public health by serving as a hub of reputable and useful public information on health topics.

Image via Pixabay by geralt

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