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How to Spot the Warning Signs of Depression and Suicide In Recovery

Depression, addiction, and suicide are strongly correlated in general, but their relationship gets closer in recovery.

Depression is actually a symptom of Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS), which is the second stage of recovery. PAWS symptoms can begin two months or more after the last time the person used drugs. At this time, most friends and family members consider recovery a success and are completely unaware of the looming danger.

Here’s what you should know about depression and suicide:

Alcoholism has been pegged as the strongest predictor of suicide, ranking above psychiatric diagnosis. This means that an alcoholic is more likely to commit suicide than someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness.

People who struggle with substance abuse disorders are almost six times more likely to report a suicide attempt. They are also more likely to commit suicide. Men who are addicted are two to three times more likely to commit suicide, while substance-abusing women are six to nine times more likely.

Warning Signs of Depression in Recovery

If someone you love is in the early recovery stage, look for the following signs of depression:

  • Lack of energy

  • Difficulty getting out of bed

  • Low self-esteem

  • Comfort eating

  • Insomnia

  • Irritability

  • Guilt

  • Pessimism

  • Relapse

Warning Signs of Suicide in Recovery

Suicidal talk and behaviors should always be taken very seriously, but it may be even more crucial in recovery. If you think someone you love is struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, look for the following signs:

  • Suicide speak – You know your loved one is going through a lot, so it’s tempting to write off negative talk as normal. But talk of suicide and self-harm should never be considered normal. Someone who is suicidal may or may not come out and say they’re considering ending their lives. They may say something more vague like:

  • “The world would be better off if I was never born”

  • “If we meet again…”

  • “I’m better off dead”

  • Or a plain “goodbye”

  • Self-destructive behavior – If a person in recovery becomes suicidal, they may relapse or engage in other risky behavior like casual sex with strangers or thrill-seeking behaviors.

  • Withdrawal – When your loved one started using, he or she probably withdrew from friends and family. This will be like a second wave of withdrawal. Maybe he seemed to get back to himself and then slipped back into hiding. This is a sign of severe depression that could lead to suicidal thoughts.

  • Preparing for the end – When someone is considering suicide, they may start getting their affairs in order. This could include making a will, giving away their prized possessions, asking you to take care of something or someone should they not be around to do so.

How to Help an Addicted Family Member

Although it’s common to feel powerless around someone in recovery, there are some things you can do to help.

First and foremost: if you think someone has plans to commit suicide, call a local hotline immediately.

If you believe this person is in imminent danger, don’t delay in getting help. Being wrong and safe is better than the alternative.

If you suspect depression and possible suicidal thoughts, here’s what you can do:

  1. Talk to the person – Start by addressing the issue with the person who is struggling. Let him or her know that you’re on their side. If they feel like they have options and someone to help them through the process, they may be more inclined to get help. As part of this conversation, discuss professional counseling.

  2. Call the rehab facility – With your loved one’s permission, call the facility that helped your friend get on the road to recovery in the first place. They are best-equipped to help this person through their depression because they should know his or her history.

  3. Continue offering your support – Recovery is a long and winding road that is nearly impossible to travel alone. Continue to show your love and support throughout the process to help battle his or her feelings of loneliness and despair.

If you think you’re seeing signs of depression or suicide in someone, don’t delay. Without treatment, symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts are only likely to worsen over time. Talk to your friend or relative about their feelings and how to get help.

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