World Suicide Prevention Day is observed annually on September 10. The observation raises awareness about suicide and the actions to prevent it. Every day, friends, family and co-workers struggle with emotional and mental pain. For some, it’s too difficult to talk about the pain or reach out for professional help. In most cases, the warning signs of trouble can be subtle and go unnoticed. By recognizing these signs, knowing how to start a conversation and where to turn for help, you have the power to make a difference – the power to save a life.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created a world that is harsh and seriously detrimental to mental health. The economy has taken a downturn. Mandatory isolation has increased, and the stresses of adjusting to the new normal have created a recipe for disaster. These circumstances have caused global unrest. It is imperative to incorporate a focus on suicide prevention.
Know the Signs
Pain isn’t always obvious, but most suicidal people show some signs that they are thinking about suicide. The signals may appear in conversations, through their actions, or even online communication. If you observe warning signs or new or increased detrimental behaviour, step in or speak up. Below are some of the characteristics to be aware of:
- Talking about death or suicide
- Seeking methods for self-harm, such as searching online or obtaining a gun
- Talking about feeling hopeless, trapped or having no reason to live
- Displaying extreme mood swings
- Being in unbearable pain especially after experiencing a traumatic event
- Complaining about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Find the Words
“Are you thinking of ending your life?” Few phrases are as difficult to say to a loved one. But when it comes to suicide prevention, none are more important. Here are some ways to get the conversation started:
- Start the conversation – Before starting a conversation with someone you are concerned about, be prepared. Have a list of crisis resources on hand. Plan the conversation for a time when you won’t be in a hurry and can spend time with the person. Mention the signs that prompted you to ask about suicide. This makes it clear that you are not asking “out of the blue”. It also makes it more difficult for the person to deny that something is bothering them.
- Listen, express concern and reassure – Let the person know you care. Letting them know that you take their situation seriously, and you are genuinely concerned about them, will go a long way in your effort to support them.
- Get help – Provide the person with the resources you have come prepared with. Call the National Suicide Prevention hotline anytime at 1-888-639-5433. If you think the situation is critical, take the person to a nearby Emergency Room or call 1-1-9.
What NOT to Say
- Don’t tell the person to do it. You may want to shout in frustration or anger, but this is the most dangerous thing you can say.
- Don’t promise secrecy. The person may say that they don’t want you to tell anyone that they are suicidal. However, when someone’s life is at risk, it is more important to ensure their safety.
- “Other people have it worse” or “You’re being selfish” – When a person is struggling, what is most important is helping them with their reality, not comparing it to others.
- “You’ll go to hell” – Even if your religion holds this belief, keep in mind that many people may not share your beliefs, nor is it a helpful deterrent to someone who is in crisis.
Now you know some of the warning signs for suicide along with an initial understanding of how to have a direct conversation with someone who may be in crisis. Don’t keep this important information to yourself. Help us to educate others by sharing this article with friends, family and loved ones. Together we have the power to make a difference and the power to save a life.