Suicide is often a taboo subject in society. It is a topic that isn't spoken about openly or acknowledged to the extent that it should be. There is often shame attached to the families of individuals that commit suicide, and this makes the grieving process even more difficult than it already is. Understanding suicide is an important step in preventing it.
Suicide is defined as the intentional ending of one's life. Startling figures from the World Health Organization show that suicide is the tenth leading cause of death worldwide, with one person committing suicide every 40 seconds.
Approximately 47,500 Americans kill themselves every year. Even more alarming is the statistic that suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-29 years old, after road accidents.
So, what is it that pushes people to a place where they feel like taking their life is the only option? This course of action is incredibly hard for people that are not in the grips of despair and suicidal depression to understand. At the end of the day, a suicidal person just sees no other option than to end their pain by taking their own life.
Suicidal depression brings unbearable suffering, hopelessness, self-loathing, and isolation. A suicidal person sees it as the only way to escape these feelings. However, they are often deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. Many will try and find an alternative and will try to live on with these feelings, but some may never find a way through.
Recognizing and understanding the warning signs of suicide are the key to suicide prevention. If there is concern over whether or not someone is suicidal, there are ways to identify the warning signs and potentially save a life.
The truth is that many people display warning signs if they are thinking about committing suicide. But, unfortunately, not everyone knows what to look for and may fail to recognize suicidal behavior in a loved one.
Suicide Warning Signs
Most individuals that are struggling with suicidal thoughts will show signs or signals of their intentions. The best way to prevent suicide in a loved one is knowing how to recognize these signs and how to respond to them. It is important to provide alternative solutions to someone that is suicidal. A crucial role can be played in saving a life by providing support, showing care, and getting a medical professional involved.
Most people that have suicidal thoughts will talk about killing or harming themselves. They could also write or draw about death and seek out things that could be used as weapons, like guns, drugs, and ropes. Keep in mind that these signs are even more serious if the person in question suffers from a mental health disorder, has attempted suicide before, has a family history of suicide, or they have a substance abuse disorder.
Not all signs are quite as obvious as talking about suicide and death, however, and it's important to keep an eye out for more subtle signs. For example, hopelessness is one of the most dangerous signs that indicate an individual is suicidal. Someone who feels hopeless will have a bleak outlook on life and talk about how there is nothing to look forward to and lament that this is how life will always be.
Mood swings and personality changes could be indicative of suicidal thoughts too. Big changes in personality also include things like sleeping and eating patterns and a loss of interest in things that they once found enjoyable.
Signs to Look Out for
Often, warning signs are subtle, but gradually increase and become more apparent. The individual may also exhibit classic signs of depression or other signs of a distressed, hopeless mental state. Often, these signs are paired with substance abuse and other self-harming behaviors.
These are just some of the signs that someone is having suicidal thoughts and how they might display them to those close to them:
- Talking about suicide: The phrases that someone with suicidal thoughts might say, include things like "If I see you again…", "I wish I had never been born", "Everyone would be better off if I was dead."
- Seeking out 'weapons': People may seek out items that could be used in a suicide attempt, such as rope, guns, pills, knives, etc.
- Preoccupied with death: Writing poems or stories or making art about death.
- Hopelessness: A feeling that there is nothing left to live for. Feeling trapped and helpless and that things will never get better.
- Self-loathing: Suicidal people often feel shame, guilt, and worthlessness. This will often be displayed as thinking they are a burden on others.
- Getting everything in order: Giving away possessions, finishing up wills, ticking off bucket lists, and other odd, seemingly final behaviors.
- Saying goodbye: Making unusual or unexpected time for friends and family. Ending off the call or visit by saying goodbye like it will be permanent.
- Isolating: Withdrawing from loved ones and increased isolation.
- Destructive behaviors: Increased substance abuse, reckless driving, erratic and risky behavior, and placing themselves in dangerous situations.
- Sudden calmness: A sudden sense of calm and peacefulness after extreme depression could indicate that they have made the decision to commit suicide.
Tip 1: Speak Up
It may feel uncomfortable to broach the subject with someone that is suspected of having suicidal thoughts, but the risk is worth it if it means saving a life. The best thing that one can do is ask the person whether or not they are okay, and if they need help.
Many people will feel relieved to have someone to talk to about their problems and loneliness. Being told that someone cares and that they are not alone can go a long way in preventing suicide.
Tip 2: Respond as Fast as Possible in a Crisis
If a loved one has opened up about death or suicide, it's essential that it is determined whether the person is in immediate danger of committing suicide or not. The people that are most at risk of committing suicide will already have a plan in place, the means to do it, and the intention to follow through.
If it is suspected that a person is going to attempt suicide soon, concerned parties should get help immediately in the form of a crisis center or medical facility. Any items that could be used in a suicide attempt need to be removed, and the suicidal person should not be left alone for any length of time.
Suicide Hotlines and Crisis Centers in the United States
24/7 Crisis Hotline: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network
1-800-273-TALK (8255) (Veterans, press 1)
Crisis Text Line
Text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
Veterans Crisis Line
Send a text to 838255
SAMHSA Treatment Referral Hotline (Substance Abuse)
RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
The Trevor Project (LGBTQ+)
Also visit a:
- Primary care provider
- Local psychiatric hospital
- Local walk-in clinic
- Local emergency department
- Local urgent care center
Tip 3: Support and Help
The best thing to start with is simply lending a suicidal person an empathetic ear and a supportive shoulder to lean on. They need to know that they are not alone and that someone cares about them.
Caring for a suicidal person can take a toll on the concerned loved one's emotional state. It is important that they also get support from friends, family, or a professional counselor.
Tip 4: Get Professional Help
The most vital step in preventing suicide is to get the suicidal person professional help. Get in touch with a doctor, get referrals, and find mental health centers that can assist. The person needs to be encouraged to see a medical professional. Often, suicidal individuals will need a stay in a residential mental health facility. This way, they are monitored around the clock and are protected from harming themselves.
Treatment for Suicidal Individuals
One of the best ways to help people that have suicidal thoughts is to encourage them to seek treatment at an inpatient mental health treatment facility. A different location can do a world of good when it comes to taking someone away from a stressful environment.
They are surrounded by medical professionals 24/7, who know exactly what they need. They receive counseling and therapy sessions throughout the day, and they can take the time that they need to recover without pressure from the outside world.