Chances are, you have been impacted by suicide in some way or another - whether you personally have lost someone, know someone who has attempted suicide, or have struggled with suicidal thoughts yourself. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, suicide was the second leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 34. But, when a crisis situation arises or a loved one expresses thoughts of suicide, it can be hard to know what to do. This is why suicide prevention is like CPR - it is essential for everyone to know the signs of crisis and how to support someone until they receive help from a professional.
First off, it is vital to be able to recognize the signs that someone may be contemplating or planning to attempt suicide. Some behaviors that may precede a suicide attempt include:
giving away one’s possessions
increased substance use
withdrawing from social interactions/situations
Additionally, a suicidal person may talk about dying, being a burden to others, feeling hopeless, or not having a purpose in life. It is vital to take these signs and other pleas for help seriously and take action.
Okay, I'll say that last sentence again - it is vital to take a person seriously when they express that they are feeling depressed or suicidal. Oftentimes, people say things like "Oh, they're just doing this for attention" without realizing that a cry for attention is indeed a serious concern.
In situations like these, it is always better to take action even if they don’t need support than to not act when you suspect that someone may be struggling.
So you’ve recognized some signs that indicate a person might be feeling suicidal, now what? Next, you’ll want to ask them if they are feeling that way, and assess these three factors: desire, intent, and means. Do they want to die? Do they intend to kill themselves? Lastly, do they have access to a way to harm themselves, such as weapons or medications? Having these conversations is tough, there’s no doubt about that, but it is necessary to ask them directly if they are considering suicide. Listen first, rather than talking over them or telling them why they shouldn’t feel that way.
If their answers to your questions concern you, don’t hesitate to reach out to others for additional support - never try to do this alone. Telling someone else about your loved one’s suicidal thoughts can help ensure the person’s safety and lessens the pressure on yourself to be the sole safety net. If the individual with suicidal thoughts is a minor, tell their parents/guardians, or another trusted adult in their life as well. To keep them safe, reduce access to potentially harmful objects and don’t leave them alone. Next, you can call a suicide prevention hotline to talk to a trained professional immediately, or if you feel you or your loved one are in danger, call 9-1-1. If they are not in immediate danger but still are feeling low, you can encourage them to seek an appointment with a therapist, psychiatrist, or both for support. To learn more about how to find a good therapist that could help someone with suicidal thoughts, click here.
To keep them safe, reduce access to potentially harmful objects and don’t leave them alone.
Lastly, if you are reading this and you’re looking for a sign to not harm yourself, this is it. You are valuable, loved, and needed here on this Earth. Continuing on despite pain and hardships is worth it and I believe in you.
Here are some links where you can learn more about suicide prevention:
Thanks for reading,