Suicide is a public health concern. Many of us know someone impacted by suicide or suicide attempts at one point in our lives. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 1.3 million adults attempt suicide each year. Yet, if every person knows the ways of suicide prevention, perhaps it could make a difference.
Let’s start with answering one simple question: how do you help to prevent suicide?
Know Suicide Risks and Warnings
Suicide prevention starts with getting into action if a person in your life is exhibiting one or more of these signs:
● They talk as if they a burden to others or feel trapped.
● They may write about death, dying, or suicide.
● They may comment on feeling worthless, hopeless, or helpless.
● They make comments such as, “I want out of this” or “Maybe it would be better if I wasn’t here” - expressions like life isn’t worth living.
● They may be abusing drugs and/or alcohol.
● If they’re engaging in risky activities.
● They’re withdrawing from their social groups, family, and friends.
● They exhibit dramatic mood swings.
If someone is exhibiting these behaviors, it is important to act on suicide prevention.
Here’s what you need to do to prevent suicide:
● Stay with the person: Don’t let them be alone. They may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their feelings. So talk to them through their feelings. Don’t try to talk them out of their feelings either. Respect how they feel and lend an ear. Help them through the hard moment. Listen without interrupting.
● Encourage them to call a suicide hotline number: In the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.
● Try to get the person to seek treatment: Again, they may feel embarrassed or ashamed. But they should know that professionals are there to help. If consulting a doctor or mental health provider is out of the question, suggest they get help from a support group or crisis center. Remember that you are not a substitute for a proper mental health provider or support group.
● Offer to help: Offer to assist in taking the steps to get help. You can help them research counseling options, treatment options, or insurance information. You can also offer to help call or go to an appointment with them.
● Don’t say things like this: "Things could be way worse" or "You have so much to live for." Instead, focus on asking questions such as, "What is causing you to feel this way?" or "How can I help?"
● Don’t promise: If someone asks you to promise to help keep someone's suicidal feelings a secret. You can be understanding and explain that you may not be able to keep such a promise if you think the person's life is in danger.
● Reassure them that things can get better: They may not feel that way now. Feeling suicidal feels like nothing will ever get better. But you can reassure the person with the right treatment, they can develop strategies to cope and can feel better about life again.
● Try to get the person to avoid alcohol and drug use: They may want to drink or use drugs to ease the pain, but they only make things worse. This often leads to reckless behavior. And ultimately, feeling more depressed. Offer to help find treatment if they can’t quit on their own.
● Remove potentially dangerous items: If possible, any items that can be used for suicide (knives, razors, guns, drugs, etc.) should be removed from the person’s home or surrounding area. Medication could possibly be used for overdose, so make sure to safeguard that as well as administering any medication as prescribed.
Now that you know these actions to take in suicide prevention, you could help save the life of anyone. And, as always, remember to write down the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255), in case you or someone may need it.
Resources and References from The American Psychiatric Association:
Suicide Risk Factors, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Warning Signs and Risk Factors, American Association of Suicidology
Understanding Risk and Protective Factors for Suicide: A Primer for preventing Suicide, Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Suicide: Facts at a Glance 2015, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fact Sheet: Suicide Rising Across the U.S., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2018
Stone, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in State Suicide Rates – United States, 1999-2016 and Circumstances Contributing to Suicide – 27 States, 2015. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. June 8, 2018. Vol.67, No.22.