Suicide and Alcohol Abuse Facts
Each day, 129 Americans take their lives. Suicide is defined as the act of taking one’s life. The American Foundation of Suicide Prevention notes suicide is responsible for claiming the lives of over 47,173 Americans yearly. Furthermore, there was a reported 1,400,000 suicide attempts in 2017. As of 2017, 43,173 deaths occurred by suicide. Currently, 78% of white males accounted for suicides, and it occurred mostly in people aged 45 to 54 years old. The second group most affected are 85-year-old individuals.
The impact of suicide is a painful one that also leaves families and friends with feelings of grief and emptiness after losing a loved one. The most common forms of suicide is via firearms, suffocation, and poisoning. Roughly 50% of suicides involve mental health challenges such as depression, and others; 31% had an upcoming crisis; 27% involved suicide in relation to intimate partner violence (domestic abuse); 18% involved alcohol abuse and 17% involved another substance abuse problem.
Suicide and Depression
Suicide and suicide attempts may have several complex root causes—one commonly associated with depression. Depression plagues 5% to 8% of Americans annually. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 25 million Americans suffer from depression yearly. More than 50% of people who died of suicide had depression; when combined with alcohol, this number increased to 75%. While depression impacts 7% to 8% of Americans, its effects are difficult to deal with. Individuals experiencing depression endure traits such as but are not limited to:
- Talking about suicide
- Talking about feeling depressed
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
- A loss of interest in daily activities or work
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Poor focus and concentration
- Inability to control emotions
Depression comes with challenging emotions that require support. If you or a loved one is attempting suicide or engaging in self-harm, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Callers have 24/7 access to support and can speak to someone who is compassionate while maintaining their privacy.
Suicide, Depression, and Alcoholism
Roughly 18% of suicides involved an alcohol dependence, and people who drink are much more likely to have an increased risk of suicide. The connection between alcohol and suicide has been one that has contributed to suicide. To emphasize, the agony of depression can be crippling for those suffering with it. Secondly, alcohol is a depressant. This means it reduces brain function by slowing it down. As a result, people who are drinking have poor coordination, can appear to be more relaxed, make poor decisions, and have slurred speech. Combine this with suicidal thoughts, with depression, or depression medication, and the effect of alcohol can make matters much worse.
In some cases, people who are facing depression may have a harder time feeling the effects of alcohol. For starters, they may be emotionally numb or may have developed a tolerance if they drink often. If he or she has a history of drinking to cope with depression, he or she could have a tolerance, hence more depressive feelings. If the individual struggles with suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide), drinking could make matters worse.
In dark moments, the temptation to drink and “let loose or escape depressive thoughts” could worsen low moods, anxiety and deepen feelings of hopelessness. A cycle of pain and dependence can ensue. Once a tolerance occurs, a dependence can quickly develop, where alcohol withdrawal symptoms like nausea, cravings, irritability, and Delirium Tremens work to disrupt healthy living.
Reasons for suicide range depending on the individual; however, it is an act that has many warning signs. It is important to understand the signs to see how you can help someone or encourage someone to get help. The following signs are most commonly associated with completed or attempted suicide:
- Talking about suicide
- Talking about death very frequently
- Feeling as if they are a burden to others
- Feeling lost and lacking purpose in life
- Feeling trapped
- Increased substance use
- Behaving more anxiously
- Isolation or increased isolation
- Self-harm (cutting)
- Sleeping more
- Extreme or increased moodiness
Additionally, people with a history of mental health challenges, a history of trauma, chronic illness or pain, a family history of suicide, exposure to people who have died of suicide, depression and/or substance abuse are most at risk.
Surviving Suicide and Healthy Coping
People who have survived suicide attempts should remember to practice self-care and be mindful of what caused suicidal tendencies. Understanding the circumstances which have led to the attempts may be a beneficial factor in prevention. Maintaining social support and having supportive family members can help with low moods, feelings of hopelessness, and encourage healthy relationships. If someone has survived an attempted suicide and abused substances, maintaining care and health guidelines from rehab facilities can help them maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Eating healthy foods and exercising can produce feel good chemicals to enhance one’s vitality. Protecting one’s mental health via journaling, getting treatment for mental health conditions (effective medications) can also be of help. Any signs of depression, repeated substance abuse, and suicidal ideations should be met with contacting the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or attending a rehab facility before it’s too late.
Treatment Options For Alcohol Abuse
Frequent alcohol abuse alters the brain’s chemistry. This means it can change how we function and how we perceive the world around us. Going cold turkey once you’ve developed an alcohol dependence is not advised. Furthermore, alcohol withdrawal symptoms make it easy to drink again. For example, someone feeling irritable and stressed after work who used to drink may fall under the temptation of alcohol’s allure and drink to feel normal.
Once more uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like hallucinations, tremors, high blood pressure and seizures set in, that is a sign of the body being used to alcohol and craving more of it for normalcy. At this stage, it takes the support and monitoring of a medical professional to ensure detoxing from alcohol is done effectively. In addition to the ongoing care needed to fight an alcohol dependence, those in a facility receive medication to assist with depressive moods or anxiety, and can engage with a support group for connection.
Support Awaits You
There are several options for suicidal individuals who cope by using substances to get the treatment they deserve. You don’t have to feel shame in seeking the support necessary to live a healthy life. Contact a medical professional risk-free and gain access to answers you need to make empowered decisions to help save you or your loved one’s life.
Author: Krystina Murray | Last Edited: March 31, 2021