In a world where we often put on a brave face and hide our struggles, discussing a topic as sensitive as suicide can be challenging. Yet, it’s a conversation that needs to be had. Every year, countless lives are lost to suicide, leaving behind a trail of heartbreak and questions.
Today, I want to explore the importance of talking openly about suicide, understanding its signs, and most importantly, how to seek help when you or someone you know is in need.
Breaking the Silence
The first step in addressing concerns around suicide is breaking the silence surrounding it. Too often, stigma and fear prevent individuals from discussing their struggles openly. This silence can lead to feelings of isolation and despair, making it even harder to seek help from both family, friends, and professionals alike. To combat this, we all need to work together to provide an environment where discussing mental health issues, including suicidal thoughts, is not only acceptable but normalized.
The World Health Organization states that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death globally among 15–29-year-olds. In 2021, an estimated 12.3 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.5 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.7 million attempted suicide. Continuously, in the United States, suicide was among the top 9 leading causes of death for people ages 10-64. Suicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-14 and 20-34.
Recognizing the Signs
Understanding the signs of suicide is crucial in identifying when someone is in danger. It’s important to note that these signs can look different in each individual, but some common indicators include:
- Expressing Feelings of Hopelessness: Someone consistently talking about feeling trapped, helpless, or as though life is not worth living.
- Withdrawal: Social isolation or withdrawing from activities and relationships that were once usual or enjoyable for them.
- Sudden Mood Changes: Drastic shifts in mood, especially from severe depression to a more euthymic (typical) state. While this may mean things are improving, a sudden change is what we are evaluating here. A drastic or fast change could suggest the calm that could be influenced by a plan or clarity around a decision to attempt suicide.
- Giving Away Possessions: Uncharacteristically giving away personal belongings or making arrangements for the future.
- Preoccupation with Death: Frequent discussions about death or a preoccupation with dying.
Reaching Out for Help
If you or someone you know is experiencing these signs or struggling with thoughts of suicide, it’s crucial to seek help promptly. Remember, reaching out for support is a sign of strength, not weakness. Here are some steps you can take:
- Talk to Someone: Reach out to a friend, family member, or someone you trust. Sometimes, simply expressing your feelings is enough to provide a life saving amount of relief and comfort.
- Crisis Helplines: Many organizations provide confidential helplines where trained professionals are available to talk 24/7. In the U.S., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) is a valuable resource.
- Online Support: Numerous online platforms offer forums and chat services where you can connect with people who understand what you’re going through.
Online Forums and Support
Suicide Prevention Alliance has IMAlive which is a virtual crisis center. It offers volunteers who are trained in crisis intervention. These individuals are ready to instant message with anyone who needs immediate support. As well as, numerous other forums and chats such as, Self-Injury Outreach and Support, Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s online support group, etc.
- Professional Help: Mental health professionals, including therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, are trained to provide support and guidance. They can help you navigate your feelings and develop coping strategies. Reach out and try and be forthcoming about what you’re needing. Professionals want to help and may be able to get you in sooner if we understand what’s going on.
- Emergency Services: If you believe you are at serious risk of harming yourself and need someone to get to your aid quickly, call 911. Emergency professionals will come and get you to safety, no questions asked.
Supporting Someone in Need
If you suspect that a friend or loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, your support can make a world of difference. Here’s how you can help:
- Listen Non-Judgmentally: When they’re ready to talk, be there to listen without offering judgment or trying to solve their problems.
- Take Their Feelings Seriously: Even if you’re unsure about the severity of their thoughts, it’s always better to take their feelings seriously and encourage them to seek help.
- Encourage Professional Help: Suggest the idea of speaking to a mental health professional. Offer to help them find resources and accompany them if needed. Other things such as offering to sit with them while they call the providers, or offering drive them to the appointment, can do wonders to get someone connected to help.
- Stay Connected: Keep in touch with them regularly and check in on their well-being. Simple acts of kindness can make a significant impact.
- Emergency Services: If you believe someone is in immediate danger, don’t hesitate to call emergency services. Your quick action could save a life. **We advise that you never try and physically interfere with someone taking dangerous steps; at that time, the correct action is to call 911. *
- Language: People you may never expect have likely had thoughts of suicide. One very subtle not to supporting those struggling with suicidal thoughts in our community has to do with language. When discussing this topic, I kindly remind people to use terms like “died by suicide” or “death by suicide” versus language like “committing suicide” or “committed suicide.” In our society, the only things we “commit” are crimes and sins. Discussing suicide in these terms does not serve anyone.
Preventing Suicide Through Awareness
Awareness is a powerful tool for preventing suicide. Educating yourself and others about the signs, risk factors, and available resources can save lives. Share information on social media, participate in awareness campaigns, and engage in conversations about mental health and suicide. By collectively normalizing these discussions, we can reduce the stigma and make seeking help a more accessible option.
Suicide is a deeply distressing issue that touches lives across the globe. Yet, it’s a challenge we can overcome through open dialogue, awareness, and supportive actions. Remember, if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. There is help available, and there are people who care about your well-being. By recognizing the signs, reaching out for assistance, and supporting those in need, we can work together to create a world where hope that things can get better overrides today’s despair.