Suicide can be a scary topic to talk about. People who struggle with suicidal thoughts truly believe it is better, in the long run, to end their lives so they can be free of the unbearable hurt they feel almost daily. Suicide doesn’t just affect the individual experiencing the pain, it affects everyone they know and our communities as a whole. The average person means well when they try to help someone who is suicidal, but most people can feel at a loss when discussing suicide prevention. In honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, we offer you some information about suicide and how you can help someone in crisis.
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Mental Health Is A Growing Problem
With suicides on the rise, especially in the time of COVID-19, many organizations are preparing to help people in crisis. Johns Hopkins has created a guide for professionals to help them. They still need your help in identifying those who are potentially at risk.
There are essentially three levels in the process of suicide. It all begins with suicidal ideations; when people have thoughts about ending their life. It’s a bit of a minor sign because many people will think about it at least once in their lifetime; however suicidal ideations should still be taken seriously and help offered to the individual.
Suicidal ideations can become even more concerning if the individual is in this mode more often than not. When assessing suicide risk, a professional will often ask if they are deciding on a method to end their life. This is the more advanced area of ideation and when concern should also be voiced and interventions provided.
The next step is the planning stage. This is when the suicidal individual begins making preparations to carry out their plan to end their life.
The final step is carrying out the plan. Some people will achieve their plan and others will not. We avoid using the terms “successful” or “unsuccessful” because people respond negatively to them.
Warning Signs Of A Suicidal Crisis
Most everyone will try to clue people into their struggle, if not outright tell them they want to kill themselves. Many people say “I didn’t know” and yet it’s because they don’t know what to look for. Here are the signs to look for in your friends and loved ones.
- saying things like “I wish I was dead” or openly talking about killing themselves
- sharing that they feel empty or hopeless and have no reason to live
- expressing feelings of being trapped or there are no solutions to their problems
- says they feel like a burden to others
- withdraws from family and friends
- withdraws from things that bring them joy
- gives away important possessions to loved ones and friends
- gets their estate and will in order
- shows disturbing and extreme mood swings
- talks about methods to kill themselves
- becomes destructive in their behavior (excessive speeding, buys weapons, stockpiles pills)
- expresses they feel a lot of shame and guilt
- appears unusually anxious or agitated
- talks about getting revenge
It is important to note that a person who is suicidal will show several signs. Someone, who is known for a sunny demeanor, buying a gun is not to be worried about unless several other signs are present.
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How To Tell If Someone Is A Suicide Risk
The truth of the matter is, anyone is capable of being a suicide risk. There are other factors that come into play that can increase their risk. Pay attention to your friend or loved one if they have:
- a depressive disorder
- substance use disorder
- chronic pain
- other mental health disorders
- a history of suicide attempts
- family history of mental health disorders, substance disorders, and/or suicide
- exposure to trauma and abuse (emotional, physical, sexual)
- recently released from jail or prison
- exposed to suicide from someone they were close to
- acting impulsive and without regard for themself or others
Treatments & Therapies To Help Prevent Suicide
As we learn more about the mind and mental health, suicide prevention can be successful for those who get help. Mental health services are equipped to help someone go from being suicidal to being happy with themselves. This is often done through interventions and psychotherapy. Medications are often used as well. Let’s look at how these treatments can help the average person.
Interventions of this type are short and brief to assist with crisis stabilization. It begins with a counselor assisting the patient with a safety plan. This plan helps them to identify their triggers and stressors while also working to implement healthy coping strategies to help redirect their brain. The patient voices what it is that will help them and most importantly, what doesn’t help them. The plan also allows professionals to reach out to approved family and friends to update them on how the patient is doing.
Follow-up calls are used frequently for as long as necessary. The counselor does a quick check-in with someone to see how they are doing. They will ask them if they are using any coping skills, if they are seeing a therapist, and help the patient find necessary resources.
While there are many therapeutic interventions available; Cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are often utilized to help an individual in crisis.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy has a focus on identifying triggering thoughts and emotions and how to redirect them.
- Dialectical behavioral therapy is particularly useful in teens and those who suffer from borderline personality disorder. This therapy teaches the patient how to identify unhealthy actions and feelings and how to cope with them.
Medication is often prescribed for underlying mental health needs that contribute as risk factors for suicide. Mental health treatment is important to help someone recover from substance use, their mental health challenges, and avoid a future suicide attempt. Medications partnered with therapeutic interventions provide a well-rounded approach to treatment.
Medications can range from antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication,s and mood stabilizers. For more severe mental health needs, anti-psychotics may be prescribed. Always take medications as prescribed by the physician.
What You Can Do To Help Our Communities
When it comes to family and friends, you may feel overwhelmed by their emotions and needs. There are things you can do to help someone you love from attempting suicide. Here are a few ways you can help:
- Ask them if they are thinking of suicide – be open to their answer, stay calm and listen to them.
- Keep them safe – remove any weapons or drugs that they could use to harm themselves or others. If you have a local crisis hotline, call them.
- Listen – don’t offer any advice. Let them speak and let them know their feelings are valid.
- Help them find help – Contact a suicide prevention hotline during the crisis and let them speak. Offer to be present if they choose to get help from a professional, assessments can be overwhelming.
- Stay in touch – the most important thing to do is a check-in with them on occasion after the crisis has been averted. It goes a long way.
You can also participate in volunteer work in your area. Here is a list of options that can help you support your community: