Let’s talk about suicide- Warning Signs
Very often when there is a death by suicide, the people left behind start finding clues/signs that the deceased had been showing prior to their death. This is followed by numerous if-only’s and an assortment of what they could have done – all in retrospect. Looking back in regret or otherwise does not bring back the lost life. Therefore, let’s commit to look forward and help prevent another death by suicide.
Let’s educate ourselves about suicide and the warning signs, and be aware of the prevention measures.
So, how can you prevent death by suicide?
Look out for the WARNING SIGNS
You can recognize the warning signs in what they say, how they behave and their overall mood.
Are they talking about:
- Killing themselves
- Feeling hopeless
- Having no reason to live
- Being a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Unbearable pain
Is there a marked difference in their behavior (as a result of any stressful life events)
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
What’s their mood like?
- Loss of interest
- Relief/Sudden Improvement
DO NOT ignore the warning signs
Many times we may let the warning signs slide for fear of embarrassing ourselves or offending the other person.
No amount of embarrassment or offense could be worth a life. So, go ahead and ask the person if they are alright, if they are thinking of killing themselves.
Rest assured, you are NOT endangering the person’s life although there is a misunderstanding that we should not speak about suicide to someone we think are suicidal.
Related Article: 8 Observable Signs of Depression
STEPS TO TAKE after you see the warning signs:
Confirm suicidal thoughts / feelings
When you ask the person if they are having suicidal thoughts or feelings, it does not increase the suicide risk. If they confirm having suicidal thoughts / feelings, then ask the three follow-up questions:
- Have you thought about how you would do it?
- Do you have what you need to carry out your plan?
- Do you know when you will do it?
LISTEN to them when they accept that they are thinking of killing themselves. Refrain from giving UNSOLICITED ADVICE, instead give them your empathetic ears, and LISTEN, listen non-judgmentally.
Do not leave them alone
Leaving the person alone increases the suicide risk. Make sure that they have someone around them all the time or at least till the time the risk is abated.
Remove potentially lethal items from the person’s reach
Lethal items could include sharp objects like knives from the kitchen, handy tools, chemicals, medicines, sleeping pills, pesticides or insecticides, etc. We must remove such items and make sure they are inaccessible.
Do not promise to keep their suicidal feelings a secret
When someone confirms having suicidal feelings, they may ask you to keep it a secret. You cannot, you mustn’t. Instead, you must get help and encourage them to speak to professionals.
Find suicide helpline and encourage them to reach to call the number
You can help someone with suicidal feelings to connect to suicide helplines available in your area for immediate intervention as they are better equipped and better able to handle the situation professionally.
Encourage them to seek professional help
Once the immediate threat is over using the steps above, it is always better to encourage the person to seek further professional help. The warning signs may resurface in time without appropriate postvention.
Suicides are preventable claims World Health Organization (WHO) “with timely, evidence-based and often low-cost interventions.” You and I can prevent suicide. So, let us do our part and be a part of such timely intervention in preventing another death by suicide.