Suicide is no easy topic to address. And with the number of suicides on the rise nationwide, it’s more important than ever to be aware of those at risk. From 1999 to 2016, in Indiana, the suicide rate increased by 31.9%, but armed with knowledge about signs and prevention, we can all be better prepared to help someone who may be at risk.
Take note of the warning signs of suicide, so you can spot someone who may be in trouble. And learn some simple steps you can take to help someone who’s struggling take a step back and get the help they need.
The 12 Signs of Suicide
If you think someone you know may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, it’s important to pay attention to the following:
- Feeling like a burden to others
- Isolating themselves from those they know and love
- Increased anxiety
- Expressing feelings of being trapped or in extreme pain
- Increased substance abuse
- Attempts or interest in accessing lethal means (guns, knives, medications, etc.)
- Increased anger or rage
- Severe mood swings
- Expressions of hopelessness
- Changes in sleep habits (increased sleep or not enough)
- Talking or posting about wanting to die
- Making plans for suicide
If you’ve noticed many of these signs, you’re probably already worried about their health and well-being. To help them avoid further risk, here are some simple ways to provide support and offer help.
Ask if They Are Suicidal
One of the first things to do is simply ask the person in a straightforward manner if they are thinking about suicide. Make sure to leave judgmental or nervous tones out of the conversation and engage the person from a place of true concern. While mental health disorders, such as depression, can be a factor in suicide, they are not the only cause. In fact, 54% of those who died from suicide had no known mental health diagnosis.
Listen to what the person is saying and be sympathetic, but never promise to keep their admissions a secret, as this can make seeking help and treatment much more difficult.
If you’re concerned that asking may cause them to feel worse, studies have actually shown acknowledging and talking about suicide may reduce a person’s tendencies rather than increase them.
If you’ve discovered that a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide, protect them by helping to limit their access to the means they may use to inflict lethal harm, such as firearms or medication. Additionally, if you learn they have already attempted to take their own life or are close to taking action, help them reach out to mental health professionals and find a safe place.
Be There for Them
Being alone and feeling suicidal is a dangerous combination, so if you know someone you love is experiencing these feelings and thoughts, try to be present whether in body or spirit. Knowing that you are there for them and that you value them helps them know they’re not alone and understand the ways they are needed in the world. Do try to be honest about how much you’ll be able to be there for them and follow through on what you say you can do.
It’s important for those experiencing thoughts of suicide to have people who care about them and someone to turn to in times of need. Whether it’s a hotline to call, a friend to visit, or a family member who will listen, work with them to build a list of contacts and people in their life who will provide them with the love and support they need. There’s even an app that can help.
Even after supporting someone at risk and connecting them with help, you can continue to provide support by following up to see how they are doing. This can be fairly simple. A card, text, or phone message—to say that you were wondering how they were doing and to see if there’s anything more they might need—can do wonders. Suicidal thoughts are persistent and recurrence is all-too common, but studies show that follow-up has great impact in reducing the risk of recurring symptoms.
Suicide knows no bounds and doesn’t discriminate, so it’s a smart idea to learn what you can do to help someone even if you don’t currently know anyone who’s at risk. To get trained in suicide prevention, you can enroll in one of our Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) training classes to learn what to do in an emergency and how to best prepare for suicide prevention.