How to recognize the warning signs of suicide

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By Ruu Hawkins

On February 8, news broke that activist and Black Lives Matter leader MarShawn McCarrel had committed suicide. McCarrell, who organized protests in Ohio following the deaths of unarmed Black men at the hands of police, reportedly shot himself outside of the Ohio statehouse. He was 23. Prior to taking his life, the Pursuing Our Dreams founder posted a cryptic message on Facebook: “My demons won today. I’m sorry.” Days earlier, he shared a similar message on Twitter writing, “I still have nightmares in paradise.”

Although we’re unsure what “demons” provoked the “Hometown Champion” to end his life, his story is one of caution. Mental illness is a deep rooted issue that often goes overlooked and untreated in the Black community. And while suicide is not a mental illness in itself, it is a serious potential consequence of TREATABLE mental disorders including major depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, borderline personality disorder, substance use disorders, and anxiety disorders.

According to WebMD, women are three times as likely to attempt suicide, while men are far more likely to complete the act. And while recognizing the warning signs of suicide are not always clear cut, there are several red flags that may help identify when someone is struggling:

Long-lasting sadness, mood swings, and unexpected rage.
Feeling a deep sense of hopelessness about the future, with little expectation that circumstances can improve.
Sleep problems.
Sudden calmness after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has made a decision to end his or her life.
Withdrawing from friends or avoiding social activities. This includes the loss of interest in activities the person previously enjoyed.
Suddenly becoming less concerned about his or her personal appearance.
Recent trauma or a life crisis like a break-up, death of a pet, job loss, major illness or financial woes might also trigger a suicide attempt.
A person considering suicide may begin to put his or her personal business in order, for instance giving away personal possessions
Threatening suicide: 50% to 75% of those considering suicide will give a friend or relative a warning sign. While, not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, or follow through with it, every threat should be taken seriously.

Should you feel that someone you know is suicidal or if you have hit a low point yourself, do not be afraid to ask for help. Know that depression is indeed temporary and treatable. In the event that you feel someone is in immediate danger of suicide, do not leave them alone, remove any and all objects the person could use to harm themselves, call 911 or take them to the emergency room, where they will be placed on suicide watch.

Most of all, be supportive. In some cases, the person just needs to know that someone cares and is looking for the an outlet to talk out their feelings. Turning a blind eye could be fatal.

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