September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It is important to raise awareness on this topic and provide people with vital information that could save a life. Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. Although common, suicidal thoughts should not be considered normal and can often indicate a more serious mental health issue. Discussing suicide does not provoke the act itself, but it can alleviate fears and concerns.
The aim of this article is to illuminate some of the signs that someone may be feeling suicidal, and to offer some suggestions as to how you can help along with some useful resources for you and them.
WORLD FEDERATION FOR MENTAL HEALTH KEY FACTS
- More than 700,000 people die due to suicide every year.
- A prior suicide attempt is the single most important risk factor for suicide in the general population.
- Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15-19 year-olds.
- 77% of the global suicides occur in low and middle-income countries.
The internet is a useful tool for information but sometimes it increases risks. There are many references to suicide online. Some of this is useful information and is similar to this blog. There are however sites that have been specifically set up to assist others to self-harm or commit suicide. All online platforms must comply with the legislation and take proactive steps to understand the risks associated with the content. The 1961 suicide act makes it illegal to promote or encourage another person to self-harm or attempt suicide. All sites should support the wellbeing of their users. This includes providing signposts to support such as the Samaritans’.
What are the warning signs?
These signs should be considered in conjunction with what you know about the person. Identifying one or two signs does not categorically mean the person is suicidal. However, don’t ignore your gut feelings, you can always apologise for overreacting.
- Goodbye– Often those who are seriously considering suicide will look to wrap up their affairs and say goodbye. It may raise your suspicions if someone suddenly starts organising wills & funerals, giving away their possessions or generally behaving like they are not going to see you again.
- Threats– Suicidal people are often reaching out for help. They may say things such as ‘no-one will miss me’ or making threats to kill themselves.
- Research – Someone suicidal may research methodology and may purchase items related to the act such as pesticides. They may store up their prescription medication for when the time is right for them.
- Communication – Often people go internal when they are not mentally feeling well. They may stop using social media and not responding to texts or phone calls. They may express worthlessness and not want to bother you.
- Behaviour changes – If you know the person fairly well you may notice slight behaviour changes. The changes could include someone being more irritable, experiencing mood swings, faking happiness and acting recklessly.
Why might someone be suicidal?
There are many reasons why a person may be considering suicide. Some of the more common reasons are usually related to emotions and thoughts. The person may feel hopeless, overwhelmed and generally feel life is unbearable. It might be that that they feel worthless and that they would be better off dead. They may feel they are burdensome to others and their loved ones would be better off without them. It’s possible that they think their problems are so great that suicide is the only solution and would be a relief. Some people feel guilty for even thinking about suicide.
- Feeling a burden to others
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feel life is unbearable
- Feeling lonely and / or unloved
- Think problems are too great
Some Common Thoughts
Many people suffer with intrusive thoughts including ones about suicide and death. If someone is feeling suicidal, they may have similar thoughts to those listed below.
- I’ve let myself and other people down.
- I am a burden.
- I’m a failure.
- No one needs me.
- What’s the point in living?
- I will never find a solution to my problem.
- I have lost everything.
- Things will never get better for me.
- Nobody cares about me.
- I’ll show them what they have done to me.
Who is at risk?
Anybody could consider the act of suicide. Those who are most at risk are usually those with mental health conditions such as depression. Other high-risk groups are those who have previously attempted suicide, are socially isolated and addicts. A relationship breakdown, being bullied or abused, grief and chronic pain may also be factors to consider.
HIGH RISK GROUPS
- Mental Health suffers
- Socially isolated
- Chronic pain
- Victim of bullying
What can you do to help?
Good communication and persistence are key to resolving any suicidal intentions. The first thing you should do is ask them and be non-judgemental. They may not tell you the truth straight away but it may delay their actions. Listening can be very helpful and may ease some of the pressures and the distress they are feeling. Encourage them to seek out professional support. Offer them assistance and accompany them to an appointment. Demonstrate empathy, show them you care and keep in regular contact. If they are in immediate danger do not leave them alone and remove access to any suicide means. You could also help them develop a crisis plan which they can utilise anytime things get too difficult for them.
Always remember to look after yourself, you are no good to anyone if you are physically or mentally drained.
- Communication; listening & talking
- Medical Intervention
- Empathy & compassion
- Regular contact
- Stay with them
- Remove access to any suicidal tools
An important factor of suicidal thinking is that their emotional brain is engaged. The result of this is that their ability to think rationally will be compromised. This results in black and white, all or nothing thinking. Because of this, they may make statements, that to you, seem overly catastrophic and not realistic. It is important to remember that contradicting these statements or getting frustrated by them will not help and is likely to make things worse. Allow the person to feel heard and validated without adding to and encouraging the thoughts. By placing yourself in their mindset you can encourage communication.
What not to do?
There are a few things that will not help or support a suicidal person. In some cases, they could actually make the person worse. Resist the urge to tell them to cheer up, be grateful or to snap out of it. Don’t minimise their feelings by saying other people are worse off or they have no reason to feel that way. Avoid rejecting their point of view or invalidate their feelings. When listening to them, be present and open and don’t change the subject. Don’t allow your frustration with what they are saying to lead you to contradict them.
Useful online tools
World Health Organisation has a free online e-learning on engaging communities & preventing suicide. Engaging Communities in Preventing Suicide | Access to WHO’s Virtual Campus (campusvirtualsp.org)
Samaritans’ information booklet on managing self-harm and suicide content online. Online_Harms_guidelines_FINAL.pdf (nspa.org.uk)
Public Health on providing support after a suicide attempt. PHE_postvention_resource-NB311016-1.pdf (nspa.org.uk)
Samaritans’ have compiled a list of helpful services for several issues. Other sources of help | Samaritans
Support after suicide have produced a booklet on how to support someone who has lost someone to suicide. Finding_the_Words.pdf (supportaftersuicide.org.uk)
There are many free helplines available.
CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) has a helpline (5pm – midnight) and webchat for anyone who’s having a tough time and needs to talk.
Papyrus supports people under 35 who have thoughts of suicide and others who are concerned about them. You can call their HOPELINEUK on 0800 068 4141, text 07860 039967 or email email@example.com. They’re open every day from 9am to midnight.
I hope you have found this information helpful and if you know someone who would benefit from reading this then please share. Why not head over to our website for more useful information and resources.