Have you ever wondered whether there is such a thing as a “suicidal personality?” Science has made some great strides, and quite a bit of research has been done on personality traits and their possible link to suicidal thoughts. If we could only predict which individuals, based on personality, were more likely to consider suicide, wouldn’t we be able to do more to help them change their thinking and prevent that tragedy from happening? If only it were that simple.
Let’s make a distinction here, because there are a number of diagnosable personality disorders or mood disorders that can be associated with suicidal thinking. The good news is that if you are a first responder, or someone who cares about a first responder in your life, the pre-employment screening that is performed will catch those disorders and eliminate those candidates from the pool before they ever get the job! So, if you think you have antisocial personality disorder or borderline personality disorder, the chances are you do not. But . . . you can have a lot of different symptoms associated with the stresses of the job that can often mimic certain personality or mood disorders, and that’s where things begin to get tricky.
One of the most common mood disorders, of course, is depression. The link between depression and suicidal thoughts and actions is irrefutable. Data published by the Centers for Disease Control show that half of all people who complete suicide have at least one diagnosed mental health condition, and that the most common one of those - 85.2% - is depression. Of course, the link between chronic stress and depression is also irrefutable, so much so that the American Psychiatric Association says that depression itself is a chronic stressor. The significance of all this, of course, is that first responders often suffer from the effects of chronic stress, which in turn makes them more vulnerable to depression, which in turn may result in the increase of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Let’s add some additional behavioral traits to the mix that are not uncommon among first responders:
- Internalizing – the tendency to adjust so that attitudes and behaviors that may be considered abnormal under most circumstances or for most people become normal.
- Emotional dysregulation – the inability of a person to manage his or her emotional reactions to provocative stimuli, leading to the development of inappropriate coping mechanisms for stressful conditions. One example would be the tendency to self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs.
- Somaticizing – a condition in which anxiety (also related to chronic stress) is converted into physical symptoms. Persons suffering from chronic stress are more prone to anxiety, making them more prone to physical illness. Carry that a step forward, and people suffering from prolonged physical illnesses are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts.
Long story short, we all must certainly keep an eye out for ourselves and for our loved ones and notice any changes in behavior and thinking that may be warning signs of an underlying problem.
This article is not intended in any way to serve as a replacement for professional intervention in cases where that is needed. Meanwhile, if you are struggling, whether you are a first responder, family member, or friend, please feel free to reach out to us at m.me/callforbackup.org/and we can help you understand what you are experiencing. And as always, if you are having suicidal thoughts and are in crisis now, please call someone to be with you, then call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).