Not many people talk about suicide, because it can be an uncomfortable subject to discuss. Every year, approximately 800,000 people die by suicide, which is approximately one person every 13 minutes. This is more deaths than all wars combined, and the third cause of death for people aged 15-44. It affects people of all races and ethnicities.
Contributors to suicidal thoughts include untreated depression, anxiety, substance abuse, bipolar or thought disorders such as schizophrenia. For people who are considering suicide, it is often a very lonely experience. Because of the taboo and stigma of suicide, people fear rejection and therefore they don’t discuss it. Many people think that if they talk about suicide, that it will result in an increased likelihood that a person will commit it, however the opportunity to discuss their situation is often a very welcome experience for people who are dealing with these thoughts.
The good news is that recovery from these thoughts is possible, help is available and there is hope. Some people think that only experts can help prevent suicide, but suicide prevention is everybody’s business. Anyone can help prevent the tragedy of suicide. It is the most preventable kind of death, and almost any positive action can save someone’s life.
There are several warning signs that someone may be considering suicide. They may speak about it directly (“I wish I were dead”) or indirectly (“I just want out”). They may be putting their affairs in order, acquiring weapons or pills, giving away prized possessions, taking a sudden interest/disinterest in religion, or abusing drugs and alcohol. There may also be a change in their disposition, such as increased anger, irritability, aggression, moodiness, hopelessness, withdrawal, sadness or depression. They may also show an interest in end-of-life affairs such as making a will or discussing funeral preferences.
Situational cues may be present as well. These can include loss of employment or expulsion from school, loss of a major relationship, a recent or unwanted move, death of a loved one especially if by suicide, expected loss of freedom, anticipated loss of financial security, fear of becoming a burden to others, and loss of a cherished mentor, therapist or teacher.
If you know someone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide, the best thing that you can do is ask them about it openly, and take them to get help. Allow the person to talk freely about their situation and problems – taking time to listen can save a life. Ask them directly whether they are considering suicide. Don’t pass judgment when someone discusses their plans, because this can often stop the conversation. Let the person know that you care and that you value them. Don’t minimize their pain.
Offer them hope in any form – often people who are considering suicide are seeing this as the solution to a perceived insolvable problem. Ask them whether they will go with you to get help – you may need to take them yourself. Your willingness to listen and rekindle hope can make all the difference. Suicidal people often believe that they cannot be helped. All efforts to persuade someone to live instead of attempt suicide will often be met with agreement and relief. Don’t hesitate to get involved. You may be the only one in a position to recognize the warning signs that someone you know is suicidal.
The most commonly identified psychological state of people who take their own lives is hopelessness. Reassure this person that there is hope, that you want them to live, and that you will get through this. Get others involved such as friends, family, siblings, clergy, therapists or physicians.
- Call 911 and explain that there is a psychiatric emergency
- For resource information on surviving a death by suicide, please visit www.suicidology.org.
- Depression screening: https://screening.mhanational.org/screening-tools/depression/
- Suicide prevention resource center: https://www.sprc.org/
- Suicide prevention network USA: http://www.spanusa.org/
- National organization of people of color against suicide: http://nopcas.org/
Source: QPR Institute: https://www.qprinstitute.com/