By Anna McKenzie
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA). Learning how to spot the warning signs of suicide and being willing to broach the subject with a loved one can be critical to their well-being. As much as we want to deny that someone’s suicidal thoughts or actions are serious, our best defense against suicide is to lean in, listen, and request the supportive help of others.
What Causes Suicidal Behavior?
None of us want to think about the fact that someone we love may be seriously considering ending his or her life. It can be easy to take it personally; we may think that if this person really loved us, they wouldn’t even be contemplating such an act.
None of us want to think about the fact that someone we love may be seriously considering ending his or her life.
But suicide is psychologically complex. Negative beliefs and a hindered mental and emotional state can lead a person to live in an isolated alternate reality. A suicidal person, imprisoned within their own mind, can’t understand how you feel. A person’s suicidal ideation is not about you; what matters most is getting them help.
Another very important fact to take into consideration: Suicidal behaviors and thoughts may often result from a chemical imbalance within the body or brain. Severe hormonal shifts, major depressive episodes, drugs and alcohol, and even certain medications can incidentally create this physiological imbalance. If your chemical levels are altered, it will affect the way you think about yourself and your life. Even simple changes to your diet or medication could make you feel like yourself again and renew your motivation for living.
Regardless of the cause, any time you hear someone talk about ending their life, you need to treat it with seriousness. Here’s what to look for and how to help a suicidal person.
How to Help a Suicidal Person
When you hear someone talking about committing suicide, you may not want to acknowledge that person’s feelings. But a more effective approach is to be respectful, offer to listen, and ask questions. You can be sympathetic without supporting that person’s ideas.
According to SAMHSA, here are some words you can say to help a suicidal person:
- “I want to help you. Please tell me what I can do to help.”
- “I am here for you whenever you want to talk.”
- “I’m here to support you, not judge you.”
- “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you were in such pain.”
If you think someone is considering suicide, but the topic hasn’t specifically come up, don’t shy away. Be direct. The Mayo Clinic encourages you to ask a suicidal person these questions:
- “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”
- “Are you thinking about suicide?”
- “Have you ever thought about suicide before, or tried to harm yourself before?”
- “Have you thought about how or when you’d do it?”
- “Do you have access to weapons or things that can be used as weapons to harm yourself?”
Encourage that person to reach out to other loved ones and seek help from a professional. Urge them to talk to a therapist; it’s just a conversation. Not only that, but treatment programs have helped thousands of individuals regain their sense of self and well-being. Tell your loved one that you are there for him and that you want him to feel better.
Warning Signs of Suicide
How do you know if someone is serious about suicide? Here are some warning signs of suicide to look out for:
- He is talking about killing himself, especially in practical terms (creating a plan).
- She is already engaging in self-harming behaviors.
- He is giving away his belongings and saying goodbye to friends and family.
- She is seeking access to weapons, pills, or other means of harming herself.
- She is talking about what life will be like after she is gone, or telling you what to do or not do when she is gone.
Do not leave this person alone. Bring in other family members and friends, and seek the help of a professional. You can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), or in the event of an emergency, call 911.
Community can have a strong influence on whether a person decides to commit suicide or refrain from it. As though the act of suicide is not tragic enough, pro-suicide communities have cropped up online, becoming gateways for people to end their lives. Cyberbullying and abusive relationships can also severely damage a person’s well-being, impairing their sense of self-worth and reality.
You and others can be a lifeline for someone who is struggling; don’t be afraid to reach out.
Alternatively, you and others can be a lifeline for someone who is struggling; don’t be afraid to reach out. Though we may not always be able to prevent tragic outcomes, our willingness to navigate the awkwardness of the suicide conversation can help stem the tide of suicide in our communities.
Help for Addiction and Mental Health Issues
We understand the deep pain of those who are considering suicide. We know how addiction and mental health issues can cause or exacerbate someone’s desire to end his or her life. If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health issues, addiction, and thoughts of suicide, contact us at The Meadows Malibu today to learn more about how we can help.
For more on this subject, tune in to this recent episode of the Beyond Theory podcast, where actress and activist Gabriella Wright discusses how her past and the loss of her sister inspired her to lend her voice to help others. You can also read more in another recent blog post titled “Suicide Prevention Awareness: The Connection to Mental Health.”