Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD
Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Suicide facts
- What is suicide?
- What are the effects of suicide?
- What are some possible causes of suicide?
- What are the risk factors and protective factors for suicide?
- What are the signs and symptoms for suicidal behavior?
- How are suicidal thoughts and behaviors assessed?
- What is the treatment for suicidal thoughts and behaviors?
- How can people cope with suicidal thoughts?
- How can people cope with the suicide of a loved one?
- Where can people get help?
How can people cope with suicidal thoughts?
In the effort to cope with suicidal thoughts, silence is the enemy. Suggestions for helping people survive suicidal thinking include engaging the help of a doctor or other health professional, a spiritual advisor, or by immediately calling a suicide hotline or going to the closest emergency room or mental-health crisis center. In order to prevent acting on thoughts of suicide, it is often suggested that individuals who have experienced suicidal thinking keep a written or mental list of people to call in the event that suicidal thoughts come back. Other strategies include having someone hold all medications to prevent overdose, removing knives, guns, and other weapons from the home, scheduling stress-relieving activities every day, getting together with others to prevent isolation, writing down feelings, including positive ones, and avoiding the use of alcohol or other drugs.
How can people cope with the suicide of a loved one?
Grief that is associated with the death of a loved one from suicide presents intense and unique challenges. In addition to the already significant pain endured by anyone who loses a loved one, suicide survivors may feel guilty about having not been able to prevent their loved one from killing themselves and the myriad conflicting emotions already discussed. Friends and family may be more likely to experience regret about whatever conflicts or other problems they had in their relationship with the deceased, and they may even feel guilty about living while their loved one is not. Therefore, individuals who lose a loved one from suicide are more at risk for becoming preoccupied with the reason for the suicide while perhaps wanting to deny or hide the cause of death, wondering if they could have prevented it, feeling blamed for the problems that preceded the suicide, feeling rejected by their loved one and stigmatized by others.
Some self-help techniques for coping with the stress associated with the suicide of a loved one include avoiding isolation by staying involved with others, sharing the experience by joining a support group or keeping a journal, thinking of ways to handle it when other life experiences trigger painful memories about the loss, understanding that getting better involves feeling better some days and worse on other days, resisting pressure to get over the loss, and the suicide survivor's doing what is right for them in their efforts to recover. Many people, particularly parents of children who commit suicide, take some comfort in being able to use this terrible experience as a way to establish a memorial to their loved one. That can take the form of everything from writing a poem, planting a tree, or painting a mural in honor of the departed to establishing a scholarship fund in their loved one's name to teaching others about how to survive a child's suicide. Generally, coping tips for grieving a death through suicide are nearly as different and numerous as there are bereaved individuals. The bereaved person's caring for him- or herself through continuing nutritious and regular eating habits and getting extra, although not excessive, rest can help strengthen their ability to endure this very difficult event.
Quite valuable tips for journaling as an effective way of managing bereavement rather than just stirring up painful feelings are provided by the Center for Journal Therapy. While encouraging those who choose to write a journal to apply no strict rules to the process as part of suicide recovery, some of the ideas encouraged include limiting the time journaling to 15 minutes per day or less to decrease the likelihood of worsening grief, writing how one imagines his or her life will be a year from the date of the suicide, and clearly identifying feelings to allow for easier tracking of the individual's grief process.
To help children and adolescents cope emotionally with the suicide of a friend or family member, it is important to ensure they receive consistent caretaking and frequent interaction with supportive adults. All children and teens can benefit from being reassured they did not cause their loved one to kill themselves, going a long way toward lessening the developmentally appropriate tendency children and adolescents have for blaming themselves and any angry feelings they may have harbored against their lost loved one for the suicide. For school-aged and older children, appropriate participation in school, social, and extracurricular activities is necessary to a successful resolution of grief. For adolescents, maintaining positive relationships with peers becomes important in helping teens figure out how to deal with a loved one's suicide. Depending on the adolescent, they even may find interactions with peers and family more helpful than formal sources of support like their school counselor.
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