Many people experience thoughts of suicide. Studies show that the most important prevention of its occurrence is done by friends and relatives. In many instances, people with suicidal thoughts do not feel like the people they are reaching out to are acknowledging their pain and suffering. Research has shown that 75% of people who commit suicide, convey their intentions to do so. It is important for everyone to understand the warning signs, and know how to talk to someone struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Suicidal thoughts can stem from many causes. 90% of suicides are caused by some form of mental illness, the most common being depression. That being said, when individuals do not seek treatment for their depression, they are more likely to commit suicide. The untreated depression worsens until the individual can not cope with the disorder any longer.
It is important to be able to notice signs of depression in others. The best tool against suicide, is proper knowledge of the disorder, and breaking through to the person in need. Depression can be caused by a multitude of factors from recent divorce to a history of abuse. Because these causes are so different case-by-case, so are the warning signs.
One sign a friend or loved one may need help with their depression is unshakable sadness. No matter how a person can try they can not bring their friend out of a sad mood. Even offering to join them in an activity they like to do will not always work, because their interests will be limited. A person suffering from depression will feel tired, and unwilling to be in the presence of other people. They may admit a change in their eating patterns, or sleep schedule. A person suffering from depression may also be more irritable than they used to be.
It is time to take action to prevent this person from harming themselves if they start to show more extreme signs. If they begin to show an obsession with death, and are preoccupied with the topic in conversation there is cause for worry. When someone says, “I can’t figure a way out,” or, “I’m worthless,” they are presenting surefire warnings. Another sign is an increase in their use of drugs and alcohol. In some cases people who were once very depressed will suddenly have a sense of calm when they have decided to commit suicide. It is imperative that friends and family intervene to prevent the suicide from occurring. It would be even more preferable if the convened before thoughts of suicide were present in the individual. Do not believe any of the myths out there saying that people who are suicidal can not be helped, and that it is too late if they have already decided. There is always time to help a friend in need!
When approaching someone who you think is suicidal for conversation it is important to follow a few simple principles. First, use sympathy and not empathy; it is important to connect to this person, however, the last thing they want to hear is that you know how they feel. Instead, it is helpful to just listen and let them explain what they are feeling. The key word here is comfort. This is their time to deal with what they are dealing with, and your problems will just complicate their own feelings, and possibly confuse them. Let the person vent. No matter how intense it seems, it is an important step that this person has opened up.
Secondly, let them know they are not alone. You are there to help them, and that there are other options for help. Be gentle with them, and give them ample space and ownership over the conversation. If you think they are suicidal it is important to speak frankly. Hearing someone say, “Are you planning on hurting yourself? How are you thinking about doing it?” can bring relief to someone who is suicidal. This may seem hard, but it gives the person validation that they have been heard.
Lastly, help them make a short term plan. Ask them for things that would trigger them to want to kill themselves. Help them make a plan to be with friends and family, instead of being alone, until they can get professional help. It is important that friends prevent suicide from ever crossing one another’s minds.
By Joshua Shane