Suicide Prevention Can Help Save Lives
September also houses National Suicide Prevention Week. The major elements of suicide prevention include awareness, open communication, and knowledge of access to resources.
A suicidal crisis often occurs when someone is experiencing an intense depression. You may notice changes in someone’s behavior such as negative thoughts and actions, harmful acts, and deteriorative functioning. Despite the intensity of suicidal thoughts, they are usually associated with problems that can be treated. Individuals experiencing a suicidal crisis are usually overwhelmed and are unable to think of alternative solutions in their current state of mind. Therefore, people need help from their loved ones to encourage them to get help. Suicidal crises are almost always temporary and the most important aspect is getting through the crisis without self harm.
Risk factors for suicide include psychiatric disorders, genetic predisposition, history of attempted suicide, and impulsivity. Other warning signs are: (1) looking for ways to die (internet searches, acquiring a gun or pills, etc), (2) preoccupation with death, (3) becoming suddenly happier and calmer, (4) loss of interest in things the individual used to care about, (5) visiting or calling people one cares about (good-bye calls), (6) making arrangements to settle affairs, and (7) giving things away (such as prized possessions).
You can use this common acronym when assessing risk factors:
I – Ideation (thinking, talking, or wishing about suicide)
S – Substance use or abuse (increased use or change in substances)
P – Purposelessness (no sense of purpose or belonging)
A – Anxiety (restlessness, irritability, agitation)
T – Trapped (feeling like there is no way out)
H – Hopelessness (there is nothing to live for, no hope or optimism)
W – Withdrawal (from family, friends, work, school, activities, hobbies)
A – Anger
R – Recklessness (high risk-taking behavior)
M – Mood changes (dramatic changes in mood)
It is a common misconception that talking about suicide can give someone the idea of suicide. If you are recognizing the warning signs of suicide, do not be afraid to ask about it. Initiating this conversation can give the individual the opening to discuss their thoughts and feelings. If you fear that someone may take their life, be willing to listen and take them seriously. If you are feeling suicidal…Do not keep these thoughts to yourself! There are people willing to listen and offer a helping hand.
There is no shame in seeking professional help. If there is a risk of suicide do not leave the person alone until help is available, and remove any sources that can aid in a suicide attempt. Do not hesitate to call 911 or take the person to the nearest emergency room. It is important to encourage the individual to follow up with treatment once the suicidal crisis passes. There are many protective factors that an individual can use including the assistance of professionals. Other resources include family and community support, skill building, and religion/spirituality. Helping the individual identify reasons for living can help sustain a person in pain.