Make a difference and save lives. Suicide is preventable. Saving lives is something we can all do. Suicide is one of the most preventable causes of death facing our societies today. Pain isn’t always noticeable, but most people who kill themselves display definite signals or talk about suicide. Many live with anxiety or are depressed.
Recognize the warning signs and risk factors. Our ability to recognize the signs and our willingness to talk about mental health, depression, and suicide is the first step in providing help to the people who need it. Below is a list of common warning signs and risk factors.
If you are worried that someone you know may be thinking about killing themselves. Look for these warning signs. The more signs you see, the greater the risk.
Recognizing when someone may be thinking about suicide.
Suicide is serious. If you are worried that someone you know may be thinking about suicide, the following information will be helpful. Please remember that if you are supporting someone with suicidal thoughts, it is important to take care of yourself as well.
Giving away prized possessions, making a will, settling loose ends
Making jokes, poems, drawings or other references to suicide, death or dying
News reports of other suicides by someone the person relates to or admires
Pre-exisiting psychiatric disorder such as depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, eating disorders
Preparing for death
Previous unresolved or recent suicide attempt
Saying goodbye or talking about going away unexpectedly, or with a sense of finality
Saying things such as ‘Life isn’t worth it…’ or ‘Things would be better if I was gone…’
Talking about suicide, death or dying
If you suspect someone may be struggling to cope or even feeling suicidal, ask them directly, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”. Don’t be afraid to do this. It shows them that you care. It could save their life.
Asking about suicide won’t put the thought in their head if it wasn’t there before, but it can be a big relief for them to be able to say, “Yes, I am” and acknowledge they need help.
Here are some listening tips:
Ask direct questions such as “Are you thinking about suicide?” “Do you have a plan for how you will kill yourself?’” The more realistic and specific the plan, the greater the risk. Take the answers seriously. Recognize the potential signals.
Listen. Accept how the person is feeling. Don’t minimize or judge them. Let them know that it is okay to feel the way they do. Avoid joking around or acting shocked.
Offer help. Communicate that you care and want to help, you could offer to work on a Safety Plan with them when they are feeling calmer.
Listen, support and encourage them to get the help they need.
Help them help themselves. Suggest that they talk to someone, such as a relative, close friend, teacher, counsellor, doctor, or nurse. If they won’t get help for themselves, get it for them. Find someone reliable. If they already see a doctor or other mental health provider, it’s important that they tell them about any thoughts of suicide they may have been having.
If you think the person’s life is in immediate danger please call 119 for an ambulance or 110 for the police. If possible can you go to them or find someone who can stay with them until emergency services can be with them. Most people won’t attempt suicide unless they’re alone.
If you are reporting on behalf of someone else, please be aware that you will need to provide emergency services with contact information including the person’s name, contact details and address.
Call a Crisis Centre. Crisis Centres, like TELL, give support and information to people in distress, as well as to the people who care about them. Anyone who is suicidal needs the help of a professional and a Crisis Centre can provide appropriate information and support.
Be firm and focused. Don’t make a promise you can’t keep or don’t intend to keep. Never promise to keep their suicide a secret. Never dare a person or say you don’t believe them. Never leave a high risk person alone without making sure that they have help. You may be tempted to believe it is just talk, an accident or that they are just looking for attention. However, it is important to recognize that there is a serious risk of death and that the person you are speaking with needs help to stay safe.
While they may feel like they have to act now, it’s worth encouraging them to postpone that decision.
They can make a Safety Plan when they are calmer, that includes a list of things they can do to distract themselves and a list of people they can reach out to for support.
Thoughts of suicide do not disappear easily. The continuing involvement of family and friends is very important to the person’s recovery. Take care of yourself.
Follow up with the person and show that you care. Let them know you are there for them and one of their supports.
Links for more information on helping people who have suicidal thoughts
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