by Todd Woodfill
A heartbreaking tweet posted by Twitter user Georgie Brown started an important conversation about the suicide warning signs we sometimes miss, unfortunately, based on his own personal experience. The Scottish man shared that weeks after calling his brother’s depression an “excuse” for his messy room, his brother died by suicide.
The tweet has been retweeted over 43,000 times, and a follow-up tweet gained even more traction. In response to Brown, Twitter user Eiri wrote, “Depression presents itself in subtle forms: messy room, dirty clothes, unwashed dishes, laying in bed 24/7, not showering, skipping meals, cancelling plans Its hard to spot, its harder to talk about but its impossible to get them back once theyre gone. Dont ignore the signs. Ask.”
Two-thirds of people who die by suicide do tell someone about their thoughts or plans ahead of time, but someone’s suicidality can also come out in their behaviors. According to the TW Foundation, behaviors that act as warning signs include:
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
Withdrawing from activities
Isolating from family and friends
Sleeping too much or too little
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Giving away prized possessions
Everyone’s depression comes out differently, and it can be hard to tell when someone’s “just depressed” or if they’re seriously thinking about suicide. That’s why, as Eiri pointed out, it’s important to ask. Contrary to what was previously believed, talking to someone about suicide won’t make them more suicidal or “plant’ the idea in their head. And especially because the signs can be so subtle, a straightforward conversation can be lifesaving.
So what do you do if someone tells you they’re suicidal or starts exhibiting behaviors that make you worried? We identified five things you can do in a previous article but a shorter version of the list is below.
1. Know the signs.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions.
3. Stay as calm as possible.
4. Assess how serious the situation is.
5. Stay connected.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20. If you’re a suicide loss survivor who feels guilty because you might have missed a sign, know that you did the best you could with the information available. If you’re struggling with a suicide loss and don’t know where to turn, head here for more information.
Thanks to Brown for starting such an important conversation so soon after his brother’s death. The mental health system can still do so much more to help people who are struggling, but the more everyone knows about the subtle signs of suicide, the more we can help each other.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.