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Pathways to Suicide

For many individuals who do not struggle with their mental health, the concept of taking one’s own life can be hard to comprehend. Those people might even struggle to feel empathy or sympathy for those struggling with mental health issues that then develop into suicidal ideation. A common thought thread might even be: how does someone even get to that point? While there is no one answer that can indicate exactly why a person chooses to take their own life, data and research can help uncover some of the reasons behind why individuals might attempt.

Suicide is not the issue:

It all boils down to the fact that suicide is not the actual issue, suicide is the “solution” to a perceivably inescapable or unfixable problem. Very often individuals in crisis choose suicide because they believe there is no way out from the problem in which they have found themselves. These “problems” can range from financial, relationship or job issues to loneliness, depression or even perceived burdensomeness. Every person who struggles with suicidal ideation is battling a deeper issue. For Veterans especially, these issues can be difficult to discuss and for others to understand. What are some common pathways that we find among individuals who struggle with their mental health and what are the solutions we can utilize to hopefully overcome those struggles?

Health Issues

An overwhelming number of individuals who died by suicide indicated in the year prior to their death that they experienced physical pain in some capacity. Physical pain can lead individuals down a path of desperation and hopelessness. Health issues experienced by many people can include:

·         Chronic pain

·         Physical weakness/imbalance

·         Physical injury (amputation, limited mobility, TBI, etc.)

·         Sickness/Illness

·         Chronic disease or disorder

·         Sleep problems/issues

The existence of these health issues can make life extremely challenging for the individual. And without access to proper resources to help them work through these health issues—other options and alternative solutions might be sought after. These “solutions” may include suicide.

Here are some things that we can provide as a society and encourage these individuals to seek out to help resolve their health issues:

·         Access to primary care

·         Insurance coverage for illness and injury

·         Physical therapy or chiropractic care

·         Access to affordable mental health care

·         Options for alternative medicine (acupuncture, massage, meditation, etc.)

·         Preventative opportunities (diet & exercise education)


Financial Problems

Money can be a challenging topic for almost any family, but add on mental health stressors and it can be an overwhelming struggle. Many families face financial hardships. In fact, it’s estimated that military families are more likely to experience financial instability, food shortages and/or housing instability. For many parents, finding a way out of a financial hole can be overwhelming and, in some cases, make them feel hopeless. Many families also don’t have the financial know-how to make the best financial decisions, which can put them into a tough position when they realize financial mistakes were made.

Some common financial issues include:

·         Loss of a job

·         Loss of relationship where the partner was the sole provider

·         Job instability (unreliable transportation, unskilled work, frequent moves, etc.)

·         Loss of or not enough local, state, federal or other benefits

·         Overall debt or bad credit

·         Limited financial education

·         Inability to manage finances due to injury, disability, or age

What happens when families experience financial issues but don’t have the knowledge or access to resources to get them through the hard times? These individuals may look for a way out which might include suicide.

Here are some things that we as a society can provide and encourage these individuals to utilize to help them out of a challenging financial situation:

·         Personal financial education: planning, budgeting, credit counseling and more

·         Help obtaining government assistance (VA benefits, Medicaid, unemployment, etc.)

·         Job search and placement assistance (resume writing, job searches, job interviewing, and job skill development)

·         Transportation assistance

·         Fiduciary Services


Relationship Problems

Relationships with family and friends are a tricky thing to navigate. Most people experience a variety of relationship problems throughout their lives and are able to work through those problems. However, in some cases many individuals may be unable to resolve issues that have developed during a relationship. These problems could be due to the individuals within the relationship or due to some factor outside of the relationships somehow impacting the two parties. Trouble with relationships can cause stress, fatigue, and even hopelessness. These factors can force a person down a pathway towards mental health stress and potentially suicidal ideation.

Some common relationship issues that a person might struggle with include:

·         Separation or divorce

·         Relationship issues/conflict

·         Abusive/manipulative relationships

·         Lack of positive relationship w/parental figures

·         Absence of social support & connection (friends)

·         Loss of a therapist, counselor, teacher or coach

When a person is faced with relationship issues, finding ways to address the problem or cope with the issue is needed in order to fix or move on from the challenge. There are a variety of ways in which individuals can focus on solutions to their relationship problems.

These include:

·         Healthy dialogue & resolution

·         Conversation and activities focused on healing & closure

·         Seeking out and development of new healthy/positive relationships

·         Restoration of positive parental relationships

·         Counseling/therapy to address issues

·         Education & guidance on communication

·         Free or discounted opportunities for community involvement and connection (clubs, sports, social events, etc.)

There are many issues that people face in life that can direct them down a path of hopelessness. The topics included in this post are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to mental health challenges. We explore many of these pathways and more in our Pathways to Suicide training. We also discuss possible solutions to each pathway and resources for individuals who may find themselves on one of these paths. A person’s struggle with their mental health journey does not have to end in suicide. Help and resources are available for individuals regardless of the challenges they face.

At NCHP, we provide resources and opportunities for Veterans, Active-Duty men and women and their families to pick a different path with peers who will walk along side them and guide them towards a better future. A future that does not have to include suicidal ideation.

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