Suicide Prevention

A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that does not mean that help isn’t wanted. People who take their lives often don’t want to die, rather they just want to stop hurting. Suicide Prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject, but talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.

Understanding Suicide

Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape suffering that has become unbearable. Blinded by feelings of self-loathing, hopelessness, and isolation, a suicidal person can’t see any way of finding relief except through death. But despite their desire for the pain to stop, most suicidal people are deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. They frequently wish there was an alternative to suicide, but they can’t see one.

Common Misconceptions about Suicide

Myth: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it
 Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning beforehand. Don’t ignore even indirect references to death or suicide. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone”, “and I can’t see any way out”, no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal thoughts.

Myth: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy
 Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They are upset, grief-stricken, depressed, or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.

Myth: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them
 Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death, they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

Myth: People who die by suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help
 Studies of suicidal persons have shown that more than half have sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.

Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea
 You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true – broaching the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Warning Signs of Suicide

Most suicidal individuals give warning signs or signals of their intentions. The most effective way of preventing suicide is to recognize these warning signs and respond to them.

Major warning signs of suicide include talking about killing or harming oneself, talking or writing a lot about death or dying, or seeking out items that could be used in a suicide attempt, such as weapons and drugs. These observations are even more serious if the person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar mood disorder, suffers from alcohol dependence, has previously attempted suicide, or has a family history of suicide.

A more subtle, but equally dangerous warning sign is extreme hopelessness. People who feel hopeless may talk about “unbearable” feelings, predict a bleak future, and state that they have nothing to look forward to.

Other warning signs can point to a suicidal frame of mind and include dramatic mood swings or sudden personality changes, such as switching from being outgoing to withdrawing from people, or from well-behaved to rebellious. A suicidal person may lose interest in day-to-day activities, neglect his or her appearance, and show significant changes in eating or sleeping habits.

Suicide warning signs include:

Talking about suicide
 – Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born”, “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead”.

Seeking out lethal means – Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Preoccupation with death – Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.

No hope for the future – Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped. The belief that things will never get better or change.

Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feelings like a burden.

Getting affairs in order – Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.

Saying goodbye – Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.

Withdrawing from others – withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.

Self-destructive behavior – increasing alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish”

A sudden sense of calm – a sudden sense of calm and happiness after being depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide.

In our next article, we will be looking at Prevention Tips