What Our Neighbor’s Suicide Taught Me
Our neighbor seemed to have it all: a great job, a nice house, a large circle of friends. But behind closed doors, his life wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
Over the years, he’d struggled with debilitating depression and alcoholism. Although he’d gone to several fancy rehabs, he never stayed sober very long. We frequently saw him stumbling home drunk late at night or looking completely disheveled and hungover most mornings.
It wasn’t until last month, however, we discovered the tight grip that alcohol had on him: one of our friends found him dead in his living room.
He’d hung himself – his life cut short from a disease he just couldn’t beat.
Three Things That Don’t Go Well Together
Unsurprisingly, depression, chemical dependency, and suicide are issues deeply intertwined in our country. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports 90 percent of people who commit suicide also struggle with a mental health condition, such as depression. People with depression are also more likely to have substance abuse issues.
People with depression often turn to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to escape their feelings of pain and loneliness. These substances, in turn, only serve to worsen those symptoms, such as feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness, and also create a host of other physical and social problems along the way. These problems can build and build until it feels like an inescapable situation for someone who’s already dealing with a lot. As a result, suicide can seem like the only feasible solution.
How to Help Someone With a Co-Occurring Disorder
If you think a friend or loved one might be struggling with substance abuse and/or a mental health disorder, there are ways you can help. Here are just a few suggestions:
- #1 Talk to Them Start an open and honest conversation with them and listen – without judgment – to what they have to say.
- #2 Don’t Discredit Their EmotionsValidate their feelings and don’t minimize the situation or their pain.
- #3 Ask How You Can Help Ask them what they need and follow through to the best of your ability.
- #4 Help Them Access Professional HelpSteer them toward a professional mental health specialist – one who can treat both substance abuse and depression – and attempt to motivate them to take action.
- #5 Keep in Touch
Check in with them regularly. This will show them you truly care, which can make a real difference in the outcome of the situation.
You Can Make a Difference
Suicide prevention requires a multifaceted approach, and ultimately hinges on whether or not someone will reach out for help. However, with your love and support, you can be the catalyst that enables your loved one to take the first step towards seeking treatment.
Additional Reading: Why Can’t Antidepressants and Recovery Go Together?
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