September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Suicide claims thousands of lives every year, and we, at Life Coast Community Health Center, think it’s important to try to shrink that number. The key to solving a problem is understanding it, so we encourage everyone to learn about suicide and the preventative resources that they can use to help.
What Are the Warning Signs?
We can only work toward fixing a problem if we can recognize it, so it is important to recognize the warning signs that can indicate suicidal urges. There are a variety of different warning signs because every person is different, but there are some particularly common and important examples:
Expressing an interest in committing suicide. This is a massive warning sign, and it is important to always take it seriously.
Research into suicide methods
Increased use of alcohol or drugs
Sleeping either too much or too little
Withdrawing from the world and seeking isolation from friends and family
Mood swings and significant emotional changes
Feelings of hopelessness or being trapped in a painful situation
Recognize the Feelings
You should also strive to recognize the feelings that are associated with suicide. Many suicidal individuals go through these feelings. Addressing those feelings can help to resolve the problem and improve the individual’s life.
Feeling worthless or like a burden on other people
Feeling unable to make choices or think clearly
Feeling as though there is no way to stop their pain
Feeling unable to eat, go to work, sleep or otherwise navigate daily life
Feeling like they cannot get the attention that they need from other people•
How to Help Directly
It is vital to reach out to people who show those warning signs or who have expressed those feelings. Doing the right thing has the potential to save a life.
You should try to speak openly and directly about the issues, but the way that you talk about them is very important. Avoid passing judgment about the other person’s feelings or desires. Listen to what they have to say with an open mind and accept their feelings.
Building active listening skills can help with this. You can acknowledge the speaker with an occasional nod or other display of interest to encourage them to continue. Focus on them when they are speaking to make sure that they know you are paying attention. Verbal responses, such as relevant questions, can also be useful as long as you don’t interrupt the speaker.
You can take action once you understand the problem. Offer support if they need it, and try to reassure them that there is hope but don’t make it sound like an empty platitude. Consider removing pills, weapons or other dangerous items if there is a risk that they will use them.
Getting Professional Support
The average person can only aid so much. The human mind is a complicated thing, which is why there are people who specialize in the prevention of suicide. If you or a loved one need immediate help, consider calling a suicide prevention line or a crisis center.
Helping someone in the long term can be more difficult, but it is certainly worth the effort. Most people who are having trouble with their mental health need to get support from a professional in the field. They can help to work through an individual’s problems and work out a treatment plan that will aid in recovery.
We all have the potential to stop a suicide and save a life if we do the right thing. You have to be observant enough to look for warning signs, compassionate enough to help and willing to understand the problem, but everyone can and should strive to do it.
If you or someone you know is experiencing a suicidal crisis or is in emotional distress, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support 24/7.