Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
Suicide can be uncomfortable to talk about, but it is a something we must address. When someone has come to a point where they are considering killing themself, they are feeling alone, scared, hopeless and they need help. Just the words of one person can save a suicidal person. There may come a day when you could be that person. Because you may come into contact with someone who is contemplating ending their life, it is important to know what to look for as warning signs and what you can do to help. These same tips can also help if you find yourself thinking of suicide.
Suicide warning signs include:
Talking about suicide – Any talk of suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “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 (“There’s no way out”). Belief that things will never get better or change.
Self-loathing, self-hatred – Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).
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/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 – Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Acting as if they have a “death wish.”
Sudden sense of calm – A sudden sense of calm or happiness after being extremely depressed can mean the person has made a decision to kill themself.
Tip One: If You are not sure, ask.
If you see the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may not be sure what to do or say. In such situations, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs help right away.
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be really hard for anyone. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask them.
You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may actually prevent a suicide attempt.
Here are few ways to you can start a conversation about suicide:
Here are some questions you can ask:
What you can say that helps:
When you are talking to someone who is suicidal do:
Tip 2: Know How to respond in a crisis.
If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it’s important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in. Those at the highest risk for committing suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.
The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:
If the person has suicidal thoughts, a specific plan that is highly lethal and the means to carry it out, or they say that they will attempt suicide, you need to respond as follows.
If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis center, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room. Remove guns, drugs, knives, and other potentially lethal objects from the vicinity but do not, under any circumstances, leave a suicidal person alone.
Tip 3: Offer help and support
If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility, however, for healing your loved one. You can offer support, but you can’t make a suicidal person get better. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.
It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you’re helping a suicidal person, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust—a friend, family member, clergyman, or therapist—to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.
To help a suicidal person:
You can also check out this list of additional resources related to preventing addressing suicide.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for over 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression, going away to college, marriage, etc. Sara also loves to help people get their anxiety under control. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.