As a private practicing clinician who’s also worked in public education and have connected with many individuals, I have definitely experienced and worked with my fair share of those who have contemplated and/or attempted to take their own life. Most can’t wrap their minds around not seeing a way out. Maybe it’s because they haven’t experienced the insurmountable depths of despair you have to experience to come to the conclusion that ending it all is the answer. Maybe they have, but can’t understand why their loved one didn’t reach out. Whatever the reason, it’s rough stuff when someone you love exits your life like that.
More than double of the number of people in this country die from suicide than from homicides each year (Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 2015). This statistic in particular just blows my mind and the only thing I hear in my own head is “PREVENTION, PREVENTION, PREVENTION”. If someone you know is exhibiting new and concerning behavior as a result of a recent loss, a traumatic or painful situation, or a major life change, they could very well be at risk for suicide. The signs or behaviors the prevention lifeline encourages us to watch for include:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Displaying extreme mood swings.
Getting help is imperative. If someone you know is exhibiting these signs, talk to them. ASK THEM. I’ve had many people say to me that if they ask directly about suicide they are afraid of planting the thought. Odds are the thought is already there and if it isn’t, expressing your concern is certainly not going to put it there.
Simply being available and listening to all they have (need) to say can also be very helpful. There is nothing on the planet that can make a person feel listened to the way a loved one can. With that said, it’s best to respond as nonjudgmental as you can, if they share something alarming like wanting to end their life. Showing your shock or disapproval could put some distance between you. The best tip I can give if you know someone who is at risk for suicide, is calling the prevention lifeline. They can provide the support and guidance needed. They are staffed with crisis counselors who are available 24/7. Please, don’t wait.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org), 2015
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2012)