MHAM Topic: Loss of A Loved One To Suicide

By Candace Runaas, MS, LMFT-S, LPC

Director, NAM Behavioral Health

The death of Naomi Judd reminds us that tragedy such as death by suicide does not discriminate by class, race, gender, or social economic status. As a successful country singer who was about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, with a loving family, she did not appear on the surface to be an individual who would experience this kind of mental illness. Depression and a sense of hopelessness can happen to any of us. Sometimes these feelings can pass with time. However, there is a point where warning signs indicate it is critical to seek out help beyond what we can do ourselves.  Losing a loved one to suicide is a painful and tragic loss. We express our sincere sympathies and condolences to the Judd family and all who loved her.

Warning signs may be… 

  • Talking about wanting to die (Example: “I want to fall asleep and never wake up”) 
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching for methods online or purchasing weapons 
  • Talking about feeling hopeless, trapped, or having no reason to live 
  • Talking about being a burden to others 
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs 
  • Acting anxious or agitated; engaging in reckless, life-threatening behavior 
  • Sleeping too little or too much 
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves 
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge 
  • Extreme mood swings (especially, a strange sense of calm after a period of extreme moods) 

[Modified from Suicide Prevention Lifeline website] 

MYTH: If a person talks about suicide that they are only attention seeking.  

FACT: If someone verbalizes that they are considering suicide, it is better to respond with support and help than to later discover that they were reaching out with a genuine need for help.  

Here are some ways to help prevent suicide 

First and foremost, if urgent and life-threatening, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. 

If not urgent, then create a Plan for Life, which may include:  

  • A list of distractions and suggestions to help reduce and stop suicidal thoughts, such as: go for a walk, play with the dog, journal (maybe about things you appreciate or make you happy), listen to music.  
  • Phone numbers of trusted family, friends, and/or mentors to contact when distractions seem to not be helping enough. Remember it’s okay to need and ask for help.  
  • Keeping yourself (or loved one safe) by removing access to things like: drugs, alcohol, weapons 
  • Talking to a therapist. Dedicating time to process feelings and thoughts may help to reduce sense of isolation, hopelessness, and depression and increase feelings of hope, connection, and support.  

Again, if you or someone you know may be considering suicide, reach out, ask for help, there is hope.  

Emergency Phone Numbers in Houston  

Suicide Hotline:  1-800-SUICIDE / (800) 784-2433 

Crisis Intervention Houston: (832) 416-1177 

LGBT Switchboard Houston: (713) 529-3211 

Houston Police Department: (713) 884-3131 


For those outside of the Houston area, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. 


Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.