6 Things You Should Do When You Suspect Someone Is Suicidal
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Suicide is the intentional taking of life by one person. About 800,000 people worldwide are reported to die through their own efforts annually. With the current spate of suicide by different personalities, known or unknown, the need to understand this trend and how we can be of help have become urgent. People struggling with their life usually do not know where to turn to, believing that the only solution is to end it.
The recent successful suicide of fashion designer Kate Spade and Chef Anthony Bourdain, both world renowned in their own right, marked the public alarm for this malady. Sad to say, there is such a thing as “Suicide Contagion” referring to a current suicide being followed by another one soon. Someone who is vulnerable may see the person who committed suicide as successful in ending his problems and be a copycat. This can be prevented (as in the case of Kurt Cobain in 2014) where media coverage focused not only on his death but on providing suicide hotline information and a write-up about the impact of suicide on family and friends who are left behind.
Culture can be considered a major contributor to this problem. Mental health issues (such as depression, trauma and suicidality) within the family, when treated with secrecy and shame, makes the person’s suffering continue. This is not the case when the cause of illness is medical. A suicidal person is undergoing depression that has narrowed down his problem-solving capacities. He is in pain and is seeking for a solution to end the pain. He does not necessarily want to end his life. This is why a lot of successful suicides happen accidentally. When in a severe depressive state, a person can be doing things to himself with total lack of awareness. He could be killing himself but not know it.
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Conditions of people likely to attempt/commit suicide
Recent or ongoing life crisis or trauma
• Major depression
• Bipolar disorder
• Loss of a loved one like a spouse, parent or child
• Suffering from long term illness
• Previous attempts at suicide
• Poor or recent loss of capacities for handling problems
• People with history of past physical, psychological, emotional or sexual abuse
• Recent release from psychiatric hospital
• Suffering from untreated mental health conditions
• Proneness to violent behavior
• Family history of suicide
• Relative or friend of someone who committed suicide
The four stages of suicide are a progression from thoughts to action. Suicidal thoughts are passing thoughts that have no heavy bearing on the person yet.These can be considered as part of normal thoughts. It does not lead a person to act against himself. Ideation means that he is becoming preoccupied with the thought of dying. At this stage, the person has constant thoughts of suicide, is in distress and finds no other solution except to kill himself. The problem-solving capacity has become narrowed down and focused on taking one’s own life. Planning starts the dangerous stage since he is already looking for methods to end his life. At this point, the person may need to be confined to protect the self. Attempts mean he has reached a point of desperation and cannot find any other way out of the pain. This is a way to find relief and success with suicide means the pressing problems are solved.
Suicide has 4 stages:
To learn to recognize suicidality, we need to be sensitive to the different combinations of thoughts, feelings and actions. Is someone in your life:
- Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself?
- Looking for ways to kill self; seeking access to pills, weapons or other means
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
The above are top 3 signs that your loved one is possibly considering suicide in the very near future. The list below shows us what to watch out for with people who are in various stages of suicidality.
Indicators of Suicide
“Wish I don’t ever wake up.”
“Can I just go away and never come back?”
“Maybe I can get lost forever….”
“There is no meaning in life.”
“After all of these, then what?”
“I am a burden to my family.”
“I will never be good enough”
“I have no hope.”
Rage, anger and agitation
Loss of certain capacities
Saying goodbye to family and/or friends
Giving away personal things
Arranging documents such as will, financial records, etc.
Cannot sleep or is oversleeping
Isolating self from others
Loss of interest
Risk taking behavior such as aggressive driving, unsafe sex, etc.
Threatening/talking about suicide
Sudden calmness like everything is okay and peaceful
Rage or aggression
Looking for methods or access to materials to kill self
Sudden build-up of stash of medicines
Looking for lethal means
These warning signs should alert us that a mental health evaluation needs to be conducted in the very near future and that precautions need to be put into place immediately to ensure the safety, stability and security of the individual.
How can we help a loved one whom we know is suicidal? Some important steps are listed below for your consideration.
Photo by Ryan Holloway for Unsplash
What to do if a loved one/friend is likely to commit suicide
Talk to the person sensitively.
Take away any access to all kinds of materials that can be used against his/her life.
Do not judge, criticize, condemn or minimize the experience.
Seek support from family and friends.
Seek professional help for:
Mental health assessment
Determining if temporary confinement is necessary to protect the self from any suicide attempt
Family and friends who are left behind after a suicide will never be the same again. People who are affected by suicide loss (called Survivors of Suicide or SOS) include family, friends, officemates, classmates, even acquaintances. Sad to say, ignorance, shame and blame are heaped on the SOS instead of the needed support and love. Suicide loss is complicated, people left behind are stunned by it. Guilt is felt strongly and grieving is not easy. Self-blame is common and denial may be used to cope with the loss and pain. At the very least, support is needed to help these survivors through this very difficult time in life. Instead of treating this condition with silence, we can try to be of help through our presence, making ourselves available for reflective conversations and help by giving comfort and care. In this way, further suicide by the SOS can be prevented.
If you are (or if someone you know is) thinking about suicide or self-harm, please remember that help is a phone call away. In the Philippines, please call suicide prevention hotline numbers at the Natasha Goulbourn Foundation: 02-804-4673 (HOPE), or 0917-558-4673 (HOPE). You may also call the Manila Lifeline Centre at 02-896-9191, or 0917-854-9191. In the U.S., please call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). #suicideprevention #suicidepreventionhotline