When feelings of loneliness and sadness get to be too much, some people will reach out for help, either personally or professionally. But what about those who may have the attitude that they need to "tough it out" or push through? Having a strong, steadfast persona can be a good character trait to have. It certainly makes you seem dependable. And it may mean that you feel you can easily handle anything that comes your way. But in reality, that doesn't mean it’s always feasible. It can be good for some but also concerning, especially if what they really need is help. And for some, it could be hiding a suicide risk.
Not letting the small things bring you down is a great attitude to carry through the day—and these people frequently have lots of friends. But many people who begin to consider suicide think that they can handle extremely heavy loads independently, without any help or intervention—and that suicide risk can go undetected.
They may simply brush off the big things like a cancer diagnosis or the passing of a family member—or they may focus on others, being the primary support and accepting no support for themselves. While people with tough attitudes are great at compartmentalizing, they may also practice detachment which can lead to feelings of grief and hopelessness resurfacing at any time which can trigger depression and/or suicidal thoughts long after the major problems have occurred.
Having a hard exterior can protect someone's emotions—but that protection is usually temporary. Putting up a wall is like building a fortress around emotional well-being. For some people who struggle with this trait, seeking professional counseling about a life issue may not be on the table as an option. These types of people often shun seeking help because they feel they have things in check—or because they worry it makes them seem weak. Or maybe they're afraid of what will come up. Everyone is different but the result may be similar.
Trying to cope without guidance may lead to feelings or thoughts of self-harm. Being in denial about the reality of the situation and blaming others are both signs that someone needs to reach out for help.
We all need some way to cope through troubling times or a bad situation. Som seek help but still have coping mechanisms. But these aren't necessarily unhealthy. It may be a good cry, buying a new purse or just getting away for the weekend. But coping mechanisms can turn unhealthy in a hurry for some people. This could mean:
If we know the person well enough we can recognize behavior that is outside their normal routines and try to help them connect with a professional. More on that below.
If a loved one seems unscathed by a recent tragic or life-altering event, they may not be okay—especially if you are suddenly seeing less interaction by them lately. Always check on someone who is self-isolating or not participating in life events as they used to. This could be a sign of depression. Experts warn that some people begin to distance themselves long before they make a suicide attempt. If this is happening to someone you know, it may be a good idea to step gently and see if you can pull them closer again before suggesting they get help. It may also be a good idea to talk to a professional yourself for some guidance in the matter.
Any type of behavior that is out of the norm should be evaluated and addressed by a psychological professional. Tough people may need some convincing. Be sensitive to their feelings—and recognize that very few tough people can be forced into anything. In fact, any attempt at forcing them may have the opposite effect. Act as a support system and help lead them in the right direction. Offer to go along and stay in the waiting room. Or offer to set up an appointment or drive them to a facility to make sure they are in safe hands. Be sure to respect their dignity along the way. Tough people are less apt to appreciate anything that seems condescending. And if all else fails, seek out help for yourself and get advice on how to handle the situation.
Depression and suicide don’t always generate strong smoke signals for others to see. If you know someone has experienced something major in life, please check on them. In the midst of mental chaos and despair, your hand reaching out could be their saving grace in a matter of life or death.
National Suicide Prevention Helpline at: 1-800-273-8255.
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