A young adult with suicidal thoughts is a young adult in danger. I know because I’ve been there.
When I was 21 years old, my greatest fear wasn’t dying; it was living. I was in a painful season when it appeared more unreasonable to just exist than it did to put a gun to my head.
So I did. I sat in my room with a pistol’s cold barrel against my temple, ready to pull the trigger. At that moment, I was ready to end it all. But God had other plans.
I heard the sound of gravel crunching under car tires in the driveway, which caused me to put my gun down and look out the window. To my surprise, it was my roommate arriving home early from work— something that never happened.
I thought to myself that either this was the biggest coincidence of my life or there just may be a God keeping me from blowing my brains out. To this day, I believe it was the latter. While this unexpected arrival of my roommate is what initially saved my life, many young adults are not so lucky.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. with more than 44,000 dying each year, and the pandemic is growing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found suicides increased by more than 30 percent from 1999 to 2016.
No One is Immune
There is a stereotype of someone who will commit suicide: weak, irrational, ill, uneducated, impoverished. I fit none of these.
I came from a suburban, middle-class, Christian family. From the outside, no one would have guessed I would be at risk, but suicide is a pandemic that affects the young and old, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian. No one is immune.
I can almost guarantee there is someone in your life who has considered ending his or her life. You might not know it by looking at their social media accounts. No, social media gives the perfect cover for individuals suffering to hide behind a mask of “OK.” Perfectly staged Instagram photos, carefully crafted Tweets and lighthearted Facebook posts allow us to put on a show of only the best parts of our life.
You might not even know it from surface-level conversations, but I guarantee there are signs that if you look close enough, you will see. That’s why we must be attentive to these warning signs that often accompany suicidal thoughts.
Watch for the Little Things
While many suicides are preceded by “calls for help”—comments like, “I wish I wasn’t alive,” “I just don’t want to go on,” or “I wish I had never been born”—sometimes it’s the little things that can give the greatest warning. Here are five small signs that can indicate big problems:
1. Uncharacteristic Moodiness. One of the main contributors to suicidal tendencies is the onslaught of depression. Many fight this battle in silence. The key to breaking the code is by providing an open line of communication and access to professional help. Many times the solution can be as simple as a medical prescription.
2. Aggression. Unusual bouts of rage, uncontrolled anger and the attacks of others are red flags. Often these outbursts are a cry for attention or help. Regrettably, they seldom accomplish the intended results of the offender. While hoping for others to console or reach out to them the opposite reaction of isolation or rejection is often the response they receive.
3. Abuse. A person who usually doesn’t partake of alcohol, drug or prescription medication or uses them sparingly and who is suddenly indulging is an indicator of someone looking for an escape.
4. Withdrawal. Individuals who are disconnecting from family and friends can be those showing a propensity to unplug from the reality of life. Isolation for someone considering suicide only perpetuates a death wish.
5. Tragedy. The loss of a loved one, family member, close friendship or relationship can be overwhelming. Additionally, any season of change related to jobs, relationships or stability, can trigger an emotional rollercoaster.
Be A Listening Ear
Ultimately, we all need to be compassionate and on alert. An open line of communication, intentional interaction that includes listening, accessibility and sympathizing are the prevalent need for all individuals suffering.
If you feel someone is considering suicide, don’t ignore it. Better to be safe than sorry. Instead, find connection, helping them know they aren’t alone, and open up communications to be a sounding board of reason and concern.
Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting any worse; it eliminates the chances of life getting any better. Hope can never be stressed or repeated too much. It is for what every troubled person is looking.
If you or a loved one are experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text CONNECT to 741741.
Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist, founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of Midnight in Aisle 7. Find out more about Jay at jaylowder.com or on twitter, @jaylowder.