Guest Blog: Family Tragedies and Suicide

Family Tragedies: How to Know if a Loved One is Contemplating Suicide to Cope

Have you experienced a recent family tragedy? If so, it can seem impossible to handle. During this difficult time, however, it is important that family members come together for support. If a loved one seems like they are having an especially tough time, reach out for help, you just might save a life.

How Family Tragedies Can Lead to Suicide
It can be said that there is no closer bond than that of family (and those considered family). You grow up together, care for each other, and celebrate milestones with one another. Whether you are happy or sad, the first people you turn to is family. Being so close, it’s important to be aware of changes in a family member when a tragedy occurs. The changes or feelings they may experience include:
● Sadness
● Anger
● Confusion
● Hopelessness
● Denial
● Anxiety
● Devastation

The disruption of the family unit and breakdown of the support structure can easily lead to these feelings, whether it is precipitated by:
● Divorce
● Illness (including addiction)

The feelings associated with these things resemble those of depression. Signs of depression can include:
● Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or helplessness
● Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
● Social withdrawal
Substance abuse
● Loss of interest in favorite activities
● Irritability
● Confusion

Mental illnesses, including depression, (whether resulting from family tragedy or otherwise) can lead to suicidal thoughts or behaviors. Studies have shown that “significant predictor of suicide.” Sadly, these individuals may feel that death is their only way to cope with a tragedy.

It is important to look out for predictors of suicide, such as:
● Talking about death
● Giving away belongings
● Researching ways to die
● Gaining access to deadly weapons

If a loved one has experienced a family tragedy and is displaying the signs of depression or suicide, it is time to reach out for help.

How to Help a Loved One Cope With a Family Tragedy
While you may also be dealing with feelings of sadness or anger, it is important to reach out to those who seem least able to cope with the family tragedy. In many cases, providing proper resources for children is of great importance, as they tend to be most vulnerable in these situations. If your loved one is having trouble coping, try the following techniques:

1. Get an Understanding of the Circumstances
Even as a family member, you may not have all the details. Without prying into the personal life of others, try to understand the basic circumstances behind the family tragedy. If, for example, a loved one experienced a fatal drug overdose, you can use that information to obtain the proper resources. There may be local community groups who focus on that specific issue. These groups can provide support or point you in the right direction.

2. Be a Good Listener
Loss of a loved one or breakup of a family unit can make an individual feel isolated and alone. When you reach out to your loved one, be sure to be an active listener, it will help him or her feel cared for. Remember to always respond calmly and appropriately, so as to not upset your loved one further. During this time, you can look out for the warning signs of depression or suicidal thoughts.

3. Offer Resources
If you notice that your loved one is having a particularly hard time coping, offer to set up an appointment with a medical or mental health professional. If you feel comfortable, you can even offer to attend the appointment with them for additional support. If there are other local resources for families who have suffered similar tragedies, be sure to connect your loved one with those groups.

4. Check In
Whether or not your loved one takes you up on your offer of support, make sure you check in with him or her frequently throughout the difficult time. This way, you can re-assess the individual for warning signs and continually offer support and services.

Family tragedies are easily one of the hardest things that anyone can go through. By looking out for one another, you can help others in need, and maybe even save a life.

Steve Johnson co-created with a fellow pre-med student.
The availability of accurate health facts, advice, and general answers is something 
Steve wants for all people, not just those in the health and medical field. He 
continues to spread trustworthy information and resources through the website, 
but also enjoys tennis and adding to his record collection in his spare time.