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Every year, thousands of people die by suicide, leaving behind friends and family who try to make sense of what happened. Much like other mental health conditions, suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. For those who have not personally dealt with the feelings associated with suicidal thoughts, understanding what drives a person to this outcome can be difficult to fathom. For the person struggling, suicide may seem like the only way to escape insufferable feelings.
Myths About Suicide to Be Aware Of
Suicide is often driven by the desire to stop feeling pain. In many cases, a suicidal person struggles with conflicted feelings about going through with the act; however, they may not be able to see another way to stop the pain. There are many misconceptions about suicide and the people who are affected by it. These include:
- If someone talks about suicide, they will not do it: There is a misconception that a person who is suicidal will not communicate their intentions; however, in most cases, someone who attempts suicide will give warnings or clues before acting. Even statements that may sound casual or said in a joking manner should be taken seriously as they could hold an underlying truth.
- People who commit suicide do not want help: There is a myth that if a person wants to commit suicide, they will not let anything stop them. The truth is that even the most depressed person struggles with feelings about life and death. In many cases, a person does not want to die; they simply want the pain to go away. In fact, studies show that many people seek medical help multiple times prior to committing suicide.
- Talking about suicide encourages it: There is a reluctance to talk about suicide because many people falsely believe that talking about it will encourage someone to do it. Because it can be a taboo, uncomfortable topic, a person in desperate need of help may not feel able to communicate how they are feeling. The best thing you can do for someone who is feeling suicidal is to talk about it. Discussing it openly can actually be incredibly beneficial and encourage them to seek help.
Warning Signs Associated with Suicide
While it is not uncommon to hear many express surprise and disbelief following a person’s suicide, most people give warning signs before going through with it. “>Not all warning signs will be readily apparent, making it important to recognize what may be an indicator that your loved one is suicidal. Warning signs often associated with suicide include:
- Talking about suicide or self-harm
- Talking about death or dying a lot
- Stating that they have nothing to look forward to
- Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
- Neglecting their appearance
- Showing significant changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Feeling a sense of self-loathing or self-hatred
- Unusual or unexpected calls/visits to friends and family
- Increasing social isolation
- Engaging in self-destructive behaviors
- Expressing a sudden sense of calm or happiness after being incredibly depressed (this may indicate that they have decided to attempt suicide)
Other common risk factors include:
- Having a mental health disorder
- Struggling with substance abuse or addiction
- Family history of suicide
- History of trauma or abuse
- Social isolation or loneliness
- Terminal illness or chronic pain
- A significant, recent loss or stressful life event
Suicide Prevention Tips
If you observe warning signs of suicide in a loved one, it can be difficult to know what to do. On one hand, you may be concerned and want to help, but you may also struggle with thoughts such as fear of being wrong, upsetting them, or feeling uncomfortable. It can be difficult to talk to anyone about this topic, but considering the gravity of the situation, expressing your feelings and showing that you care is better than doing nothing.
- Speak up: Expressing your concern can be difficult, but it is important to communicate it sooner rather than later. Initiating a conversation about this topic can provide relief and allow a person to express their feelings in a way that can change their future actions.
You can start the conversation by speaking from your own perspective and expressing your concern. Ask open-ended questions, offer your support, and be sure to take them seriously. It is not helpful to argue with them, belittle them, or attempt to take the blame for the situation.
- Respond quickly: If a loved one expresses suicidal thoughts, it is important to act quickly. This is especially true if the person has expressed suicidal thoughts and has a plan or timeline to take action. If you suspect that suicide attempt will be taking place, call 911, and do not leave the suicidal person alone. If it is possible, remove any lethal objects from the surrounding area to prevent access.
- Follow-up: The best way to help your loved one is to be empathetic, let them know they are not alone, and to be proactively involved. While it is not your responsibility to heal them, you can offer support that makes it easier for them to take control of the situation.
In order to best help a suicidal person, you can proactively be involved in their life. Rather than telling them to reach out if they need anything, make an effort to stop by, call, and invite them out, even if they are reluctant to engage. You can also help them make lifestyle changes to support improved physical and mental health. Helping them get outside, eat better, and get plenty of sleep can boost mood and promotes positive wellbeing.
Suicide is preventable and it is important to engage in conversations about this difficult topic in order to enact change. Having open and honest discussions about mental health, suicide, and other difficult topics can reduce stigmas and make it easier for people to seek help. Easy access to resources, treatment services, and other means of support can make a significant difference in a person’s life and change the course of their future entirely.
National Suicide Prevention Line Call 1-800-273-8255
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