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Alcohol and suicide are known to have a causal relationship. Alcohol disinhibits the brain causing impulsivity and poor decision making. Research shows a strong link between alcohol use among people diagnosed with depression. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Alcohol abuse may lead to suicidality through disinhibition, impulsiveness and impaired judgment, but it may also be used as a means to ease the distress associated with committing an act of suicide.”
It is a common misconception that by asking someone about suicide, you might plant the idea in their head or cause them to consider it. The research is clear that this is not the case. If you are concerned about a loved one, ask them about suicide, and do it directly:
Call a crisis hotline or 9-1-1 if your loved one can’t commit to stay safe or you have reason to believe that they may follow through on thoughts or suicide. Even if you believe they are safe for the time being, it is important that they seek counseling to address underlying depression, trauma, and other contributing factors.
Self-harming behaviors can result in accidental death, but generally, the intention behind self-harm is not death. People may self-harm as a form of self-punishment, to distract from emotional pain, or to relieve a feeling of numbness and disconnection. It is important to determine a person’s intention in self-harming.
The first step in addressing thoughts of suicide is to tell a trusted adult. Don’t be alone with these thoughts. A professional can help you get treatment for underlying depression, learn to work through and express difficult emotions and help you develop coping skills for dealing with hard situations.
Limit access to firearms and medications. No, this does not entirely prevent suicide. However, studies show that limiting access to these common means of suicide makes people less likely to complete suicide.
For longer term care and to address the root cause of what is contributing to both alcohol use and depression, there are treatment programs that can help your loved one get back on track so they can be the happiest, healthiest version of themselves.
We offer a full continuum of care for teens and young adults struggling with alcohol and drug use, depression, suicidality, and other co-occurring disorders. Contact our admissions coordinators to learn more about our medical detox, teen residential, and outpatient treatment programs. We also offer sober living to help young adults get stable.