For nearly two decades, the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) has held World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th. This day is meant to remind each one of us that we have the ability to make a difference in someone else’s life. We have the power to reach out and help someone in need of friendship, support, or suicide help.
What is important about this day is it is an invitation to reflect, understand the complexity of suicide, remember those we have lost, and find support and educational resources to help us answer important questions.
SUICIDE. What does that word bring up for us? How do we feel about having to talk about it or having to talk to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide?
How Can I Help Someone Contemplating Suicide?
Suicide prevention is achievable, but prevention begins with education. When we know how to recognize the early warning signs and learn what types of support are within our reach, we have the tools and the confidence to act.
What Are Common Warning Signs of Suicide
- A person may exhibit feelings of hopelessness (is unable to find a purpose in life or envision a future).
- A person may withdraw from friends and family (prefers to be alone at all times)
- A person may start drinking more and/or taking recreational drugs
- A person may show a wide range of mood swings (displays anger, rage, sadness, or recklessness)
- A person may express to you that he or she feels like a burden to others.
There are other important warning signs to be aware of, such as the type of environmental factors that can put a person more at risk of suicide, including prolonged stress from unemployment, relationships, abuse, finances, undiagnosed depression etc. (American Foundation for Suicide and Prevention).
But when a person experiences any of these symptoms, how do you know when to intervene and provide support? And what does this type of support look like?
There seems to be a common fear that if we bring this topic up to someone—that this same individual may attempt suicide. This would imply that the mere mention of the idea is what triggers the action. Rest assured, there is enough research to support that talking about suicide does not cause it. In fact, the opposite is true. There can be a sense of relief knowing that someone is willing to listen.
How Can I Talk to Someone Who I Think Might Be Contemplating Suicide?
- Can we talk?
- I’ve noticed you have been isolating more.
- I think you have been drinking more than usual.
- I am worried that you might be thinking about taking your life.
The best thing you can do is start the conversation and keep a few things in mind:
- Don’t pass judgement.
- Be genuine in all your questions and your responses.
- Listen to your friend or family member first. Hear what he or she has to say. Allow the person to be free to express feelings, fears, and concerns, without being interrupted.
- Offer support and resources, such as information on suicide support groups near you.
- Check in and check in often. After the initial conversation, be sure to check in routinely. Never worry you’re being annoying. Show you care by being present.
If you’re concerned that a friend may attempt suicide, call or chat the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline right away. The Lifeline provides 24/7 support for you and/or someone else you’re calling about. And everything is free and confidential.
How Can I Ask for Suicide Help?
Sometimes the hardest part isn’t asking for help to support someone we care about; it’s asking for help for ourselves.
You may find your own health and wellness impacted by job loss or concerns about losing your current employment, financial constraints, isolation from social distancing, or a foreboding fear about the future.
If prolonged stress is causing you to feel hopeless about the future, know you’re not alone.
Reaching out to someone might be difficult but finding connection is an important way to feet less isolated.
If you’re worried about talking to a loved one about how you’re feeling, we encourage you to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Remember, it is a free, confidential, and anonymous service that consists of more than 170 local crisis centers around the country, all led by professionals who are here to talk and help you find the support you need in times of crisis.
Let’s all do our part this month to support our friends, family, colleagues, and community by helping increase awareness about suicide prevention. Most importantly, let’s not forget about ourselves. Remember we are not alone. There is help. All we have to do is ask.