Suicidal thoughts can plague anyone regardless of age, gender, or social status. Commonly linked to depression, there is no foolproof indicator of suicidal tendencies. Suicide is one of the fastest-growing epidemics around the world.
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month — a time to raise awareness on this stigmatized, and often taboo, topic
Identifying early signs of suicidal tendency in your loved one can help you prevent a suicide.
Warning Signs of a Suicide
Some of the more common warning signs that a person may be thinking of ending their life include:
- Being sad or moody: The person has long-lasting sadness and mood swings. Depression is a major risk factor for suicide.
- Sudden calmness: The person suddenly becomes calm after a period of depression or moodiness.
- Withdrawing from others: The person chooses to be alone and avoids friends or social activities. They also lose of interest or pleasure in activities they previously enjoyed.
- Changes in personality, appearance, sleep pattern: The person’s attitude or behavior changes, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. Also, they suddenly become less concerned about their personal appearance. They sleep much more or much less than typical for that person.
- Showing dangerous or self-harmful behavior: The person engages in potentially dangerous behavior, such as driving recklessly, having unsafe sex or increase their use of drugs and/or alcohol.
- Experiencing recent trauma or life crisis: Examples of crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job or serious financial problems.
- Being in a state of deep despair: The person talks about feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped or being in severe emotional pain.
- Making preparations: The person begins to put their personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will and cleaning up their room or home. Often the person will search online for ways to die or buy a gun. Some people will write a note before attempting suicide.
- Threatening suicide or talking about wanting to die: Not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it. However, every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.
Can Suicide be Prevented?
The following are some suicide prevention tips recommended by the non-profit organization Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
Don’t Discount Their Feelings
Listen to what the person in question is saying without offering judgments. Don’t be dismissive of their experiences or emotions. Most importantly, never dismiss suicidal talk or threats. If a person is making comments that seem to indicate that they are depressed or thinking of taking their own life, you should always take them seriously.
Look at Suicide as a Cry for Help
When a person attempts suicide, this isn’t necessarily a sign that they want to die. Instead, it’s an indicator that they are in great emotional pain, but don’t know how to deal with it. Suicide has started to look like their only option to escape a situation that they don’t know how to handle.
If they are still alive, however, they are desperately seeking an alternative to death and attempting suicide may be their way of reaching out and saying that they need help.
Be a Good Listener
Being able to talk with a caring friend and unburden yourself from your troubles can go a long way in relieving the unbearable build-up of pressure that can lead to a suicide attempt. Being a good listener doesn’t require any special skills. Be patient and accepting, but avoid getting into an argument or trying to offer simplistic solutions. Simply be there and show that you care.
Encourage Them to Get Help
Even though some suicides may seem to come out of the blue, it’s quite likely that the person had been depressed for a very long time. Getting prompt professional assistance at the first signs of depression is a very important step in preventing suicide.
Working to take away the stigma around depression and encouraging people who are hurting to get the help that they need right away can go a long way in saving lives because the problem is dealt with before it gets too bad.
Ask About Their Suicidal Feelings
While you may be afraid to bring up the topic for fear of giving them ideas, the fact is that those thoughts and feelings are there regardless of what you might say. What you are really doing by bringing the topic up is giving them an opportunity to open up to you and allow you help them.
Never Leave Them Alone
If they seem to be in imminent danger of hurting themselves, do not leave them alone. Take steps to get them away from any means that they could use to hurt themselves, such as weapons or pills. Call emergency number for assistance if need be or offer to transport them to the hospital.
Encourage Seeing a Professional
It may take some patience and persistence, but urge the person in question to seek an appointment with a mental health professional. Once they have made the appointment, continue to maintain contact in order to encourage them to follow through with appointments and treatment plans.
Know That Secrets Can Kill
If the person asks you to not tell anyone, be aware that you may have to break your promise in order to help them. Having your friend or loved one alive but angry with you is preferable to keeping a promise that leads to them taking their life.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.