Over my 25 years working as a registered dietitian and certified eating disorder specialist, I have encountered suicidal ideation in many people I have worked with.
You see, anorexia nervosa has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. In fact, one out of five individuals with anorexia will ultimately die by suicide.
On a personal note, I also know people who have taken their own lives and seen the devastating aftermath for friends and families.
Mental illness is just as serious as physical illness, but unfortunately, there is stigma for many who choose not to seek treatment as a result of fear, shame, or other pressures.
In talking with a colleague, Melissa Howard, of stopsuicide.info, she has kindly written a guest article about this very topic which I want to share with you today.
The knowledge in here could literally help save a life or lives, so please read and share with anyone who might need to read it as well. It is really so important for parents and friends and family to take mental health seriously…And for people to know what to do in a crisis.
If you or a family member are dealing with an eating disorder and need additional help, feel free to contact me for a discovery call.
Going through a period of poor mental health can be distressing, especially if it co-exists with suicidal ideation. Knowing warning signs is the first step to getting better. The process may seem, at times, long and difficult. However, there is much you can do to progress to a future free of suicidal thoughts.
Suicidal ideation can be indiscriminate, but some conditions may make a person more vulnerable and likely to engage in self-harm. If you have an eating disorder, then you are potentially more susceptible to suicidal ideation as they have a high correlation. One study of those affected by eating disorders found that 60 percent of its participants displayed suicidal behavior. Another reported 17 percent attempted suicide.
It’s important to recognize warning signs and take action before the situation worsens. You may find yourself becoming increasingly lethargic or that fatalistic thoughts are more frequent. Isolation and disinterest in life, or in passions, may also be prominent. This can all be frightening, and it may seem as if these thoughts have always been with you, but this period can be overcome.
Getting help can be hard and daunting. Yet professional help can give critical support to aid you in getting better. A doctor may offer resources and information on what support you can receive. If you feel at risk, there are crisis lines that you can contact. Therapy and counseling can offer a safe environment where you will have someone to talk with, and be listened to. They can also help you develop a plan that enables you to manage your situation and deal with sudden downturns.
Your family, as well as friends, may also be sources of strength away from professionals and support groups. If there are people whom you feel you can trust, then consider opening up to them about your troubles. From comfort to practical help, their love could potentially lessen the strain on you.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but a demonstration that your life truly matters.
Make Your Home a Safe Environment
Home should be a sanctuary, a refuge from stresses. A positive environment can be one way to improve mental health and offer respite. Fill your house with color. This could entail plants, lamps, or painting walls with soothing colors.
Further, it’s a good idea to also create a space to meditate freely. Whether it’s your bedroom or somewhere else private, invest in someplace you can de-stress in peace. Use candles, dim lights, and anything you find comforting. Avoid technology, however, as they can be triggers.
Consider books or magazines as alternatives for when you’re not meditating. The act of meditation can be as short as 10 minutes. It’s not a miracle cure, but it can be an effective tool to manage stress. Sometimes, however, stress at home can be caused by others. If you can safely discuss an issue with someone in your home, then do so.
Expressing your feelings and concerns is essential for your overall well-being, especially when seeking comfort in your own home.
Set Realistic Goals
Having things to look forward to, whether it’s daily or long-term, can give motivation and energy. This can be crucial when both may be elusive. Try setting small, realistic goals, whether it’s work related or personal.
You might want to try staying physically healthy, so you could develop attainable targets to do so. Or, you could work toward a vacation or taking up a new hobby. Your goals could also extend to others, by volunteering for organizations or causes that are special to you. This could be another way for you to bring goals to fruition while surrounding yourself with supportive people who can celebrate accomplishments with you.
The Most Important Part of this Message: If you’re experiencing any form of suicidal urges, it’s important to seek help. Don’t assume any downturn will go away by itself. This is especially so if you have a pre-existing condition like an eating disorder. There are ways that you can lessen the strain you’re dealing with, but it will be through professional support that you can move forward.
Head of Prevention Outreach
Melissa Howard operates stopsuicide.info, which supports her mission to end suicide. As part of that mission, she is writing articles (and a book!) on emotional wellness – in particular some of the warning signs that indicate it’s time to seek help. You can find additional resources on their website.
Erica Leon is a Registered Dietitian and practices from a Health at Every Size (HAES®) lens. She and her team of eating disorder specialists and Anti-Diet Dietitians provide insurance-based care for eating disorders, disordered eating, chronic dieting, or other health conditions in a safe and non-judgmental space for healing.
We work virtually with our clients from our offices in Westchester County in New York as well as the tri-state areas of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, along with Florida, California, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, and Vermont. We are in-network with the following insurance companies: Aetna, Cigna, and United Healthcare; including Oxford, UMR, and The Empire Plan (NYSHIP).
We take the time to learn where you or your family are in the pursuit of health. Respectful of your individual needs and lifestyle, Erica will provide an honest assessment of whether or not you are a good fit to work together. Click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see which of our Dietitians is the best fit for you!