Suicide is a growing issue, claiming over a million lives annually. Such statistics indicate that suicide is an epidemic, affecting everyone from the young to the elderly to the middle-aged to people from every class and background. The unhappiness we see every day is mirrored by the number of people who see no way out other than to end their own lives. Approaching the topic, especially if we see someone in danger of hurting himself, is important to do.
Warning Signs for Suicide
There are many warning signs that point to an individual’s intentions to commit suicide, and some of them are quite subtle. We can usually discern these from the person’s verbal and written cues, as well as changes in their behavior. This issue is scary to deal with; however, it is not insurmountable, and it is one that is best approached sooner rather than later. Fortunately, there are things you can do to try to help a loved one who you suspect may be suicidal.
There is no specific face of suicide, but there are certain factors that play into an individual’s tendencies towards suicidal ideation, as well as specific behaviors that point towards their intentions. For instance, over 90 percent of people who go through with suicide suffer from a treatable psychiatric disorder, such as depression or bipolar disorder. Along with mental illness, the individual’s history also comes into play as people are more likely to attempt suicide if they have previously attempted suicide, or if they have a family history of suicide.
More subtle indicators of people’s potential to lean towards suicide are their drug and alcohol intakes; their recklessness, often referred to as a “death wish”; and their lack of self-care. Coupled with a sense of hopelessness, this is a dangerous recipe that often results in suicidal behavior. From the outside, we are able to see this change because people often begin to talk about killing or harming themselves, as well as writing a lot about death. There is often apparent self-loathing, and withdrawal from friends, as well as seeking out things that could be used in a suicide attempt. When these are noticed, family and friends often become very worried, and with good reason. Thankfully, there is a safe way to approach them that will show care, concern, and offer help.
Helping Someone Who is Suicidal
There are several steps people have to take when they are dealing with potentially suicidal individuals. Firstly, the truth about suicide has to be apparent. So, that is a good place to start. Talking about suicide doesn’t give people the idea to go through with it, and it is better to approach the idea and show you care than leave it in the dark.
Also, it is important to remember that people who are suicidal aren’t crazy. They’re distressed to a point that they can’t see another way out.
Lastly, but most importantly (before you begin the conversation), remember that this is a serious conversation. Intervening can literally be lifesaving, so this is not a time for fear, pride, or opinions. Rather it is a time to try to help the people you love.
There are really only two big parts to helping someone who is suicidal: speaking up and taking action to help. When you approach the conversation, just listen and be yourself. Genuinely voice your concerns, but don’t push or argue. Ask if they have been having suicidal thoughts, and no matter what their replies are, let them know you are part of their support systems, and that you value their lives. However, don’t say their thoughts are wrong, blame yourself, or swear secrecy. This is life or death, and confidentiality comes second to their lives.
When it comes time to take action, it depends on their risk of immediate harm. But, if they are suicidal, do NOT leave them alone. Help to get them professional help, and after that, encourage positive lifestyle changes. Actively check-in, let them know you care, and continue your support long after the crisis period has passed. It is always worth trying to help those you love.