Four Things to Know About Emotional Wellness and Suicide Prevention
by Melissa Howard
Editor’s note: this piece is written by the founder of Stop Suicide (www.stopsuicide.info). Studies have shown that bereavement is associated with impaired mental health, increases in adverse health behaviors, and heightened risk of suicidal ideation, attempts, and death by suicide. For example, parental death in childhood is associated with an increased long-term risk of suicide.
Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States, according to JAMA Network. In fact, each year, nearly 45,000 Americans die by suicide (44,834 in 2020). But, we must remember that for every suicide that results in death, there are many attempts. That’s why AfterTalk has put together some tips and resources to help you prioritize emotional wellness and recognize the warning signs that indicate it’s time to seek help.
- Emotional Wellness is a Key to Thriving
When people talk about their health, they often refer to physical health. But, emotional wellness is a key to a person’s ability to thrive. Someone who is emotionally well is able to handle stress, have awareness of and accept his or her feelings and pay close attention to his or her positive and negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. People with emotional wellness easily make decisions, accept support and help from others, have healthy relationships, accept challenges and risks and take responsibility for their actions.
These benefits of emotional wellness are accentuated at the workplace, where stressors can be found in abundance. Whether it’s a bad manager, an annoying coworker, or the job function itself, there are many things you can do to improve your overall health, which will allow you to handle these stressors before they overcome your thoughts and contribute to poor reactions.
- How to Improve Emotional Wellness
There are several ways that you can attempt to improve your emotional wellness. Consider these following strategies for developing and maintaining emotional wellness:
- Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings
- Express your feelings as effectively as possible
- Manage your emotions and reactions
- Remain optimistic
- Cope with stress in healthy ways
- Use relaxation and self-care practices
- Learn and grow from experiences
- Adjust to change to enjoy life more
- Accept support from family, friends, and your community
- Remember to laugh
Unfortunately, not everyone can achieve emotional wellness. Those who cannot do find it difficult to balance work, family and friends, and other responsibilities. They also struggle to deal with stress and make decisions. Finally, they are unable to set priorities. Overall, people who cannot achieve emotional wellness view life as a constant struggle. They may not understand their feelings and lose hope or feel as though they have no purpose. As a result, they begin to have suicidal thoughts.
- Warning Signs of Suicide
People who cannot achieve emotional wellness need to be aware of the warning signs that indicate it is time to seek help. Mental Health America lists some of the warning signs of a person considering suicide:
- Making verbal suicide threats including “You’d be better off without me” or “I should just kill myself”
- Feeling hopeless
- Expressing feelings of helplessness
- Making a previous suicide attempt
- Engaging in daring or risky behavior
- Experiencing personality changes
- Feeling depressed
- Giving away possessions
- Having a lack of interest in future plans
- Failing to enjoy hobbies or pleasurable activities
- Neglecting hygiene or personal appearance
- Increasing use of drugs or alcohol
- Changing sleeping patterns
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse
Sometimes, people’s emotional wellness and mental health relate to a substance use disorder. In fact, nearly 50 percent of people with a substance abuse disorder also suffer from a mental health disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The NIMH also states: “Mental disorders can contribute to substance use … brain changes in people with mental disorders may enhance the rewarding effects of substances, making it more likely they will continue to use the substance.”
That’s why it is so important that people who struggle with emotional wellness work with a therapist to determine whether they have a mental health disorder and to relieve symptoms of anxiety and stress. A proper diagnosis makes it far easier for counselors and substance abuse treatment programs to treat mental health and substance abuse disorders simultaneously.
In fact, top drug and alcohol rehab programs prioritize treating patients’ mental health needs and treat the mental condition and addiction at the same time to prevent a relapse or regression of either disorder. Simultaneous treatment also benefits patients because many medications used to treat addiction also are helpful in psychiatric treatment.
Maintaining emotional health is one step toward preventing suicide. There are several ways to boost emotional health, but not everyone can. That’s’ why it’s imperative to know the warning signs of suicide and address mental health and substance abuse disorders simultaneously to prevent suicide.
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