Addiction can affect anyone in almost any age group, and because it comes with a long list of additional risks, it’s important to understand what a person who suffers with substance abuse issues deals with on a daily basis. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, drugs and alcohol can take their toll and can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.
Some of the most at-risk individuals include veterans, victims of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, and those who have survived a trauma of some sort. The risk is also heightened if a person has family members who have abused drugs or alcohol.
Even young people are at risk for substance abuse-related problems; from the ages of 12 to 20, American youths drink about 11% of all alcohol consumed in a year. The reasons for why a teen chooses drugs or alcohol are many and varied, but the problems arise when the individual begins using on a daily basis, to help themselves sleep, or to cope with an issue they can’t face. Because teens are already at risk for depression and suicidal thoughts due to high emotions, changes in hormones and behavior, and outside factors such as family issues, bullying, and pressure to fit in, drugs and alcohol will only exacerbate charged emotions.
Self-harm can be anything from physically cutting skin to taking pills to cope, but in too many of these cases, the individual puts themselves at risk for dangerous behaviors in the future. Suicide and depression go hand-in-hand, and when a life change or stress causes the person to seek comfort in substances, they are merely pushing the depression down temporarily. Not facing the root problem will only lead to disaster later, so it’s important that these individuals seek help and have understanding from friends and family.
Some of the reasons a person may attempt to take their life or die by suicide include:
- Overwhelming anxiety
- Personal illness
- Being exposed to the suicide of someone else
- Big, negative life changes, or changes that could be perceived as negative
- Fear of family reaction to a health issue, such as pregnancy or an STD
- Feeling alone
Many individuals who are dealing with depression isolate themselves because they are either afraid to talk about what’s bothering them or they don’t believe they will be supported. They may also undergo big changes where appetite and sleep are concerned and engage in risky behaviors, so it’s important for family members to know what to look for and start a conversation.
If someone you love is engaging in these or any other behaviors that are causing concern, don’t hesitate to let them know you’re there for them. In many cases, feeling alone is a huge factor in depression and suicidal thoughts and knowing someone is listening can be a big help. Rather than be judgmental, listen with an open mind and offer to help them find a counselor, therapist, or support group where they can get the help they need.
If substance abuse is indeed a factor, it will need to be dealt with separately. Getting to the root of the problem is key for recovery, but the individual will need a clear mind in order to get there.
Michelle Peterson has been in recovery for several years. She started RecoveryPride.org to help eliminate the stigma placed on those who struggle with addiction. The site emphasizes that the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride and offers stories, victories, and other information to give hope and help to those in recovery.