5 Steps to Prevent Suicide
Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States.
Since 2006, the rate of suicide has been increasing by as much as 21% for men and 50% for women. In 2016, there was approximately one death from suicide every 12 minutes.
If a loved one is struggling and you don’t know how to help, following these steps may help avert a tragedy:
1. Talking about it.
Suicide often has an associated stigma. However, most suicidal people are not ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ – they’re simply people who are hurting. Substance use and mental health disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder often occur in those considering suicide.
People struggling with their health should not be shamed for their pain or have to hide how they feel. Speaking out about the importance of mental health and opening up regarding suicidal thoughts is an important step toward prevention.
2. Know the warning signs.
The easiest signs to identify are verbal cues: “No one cares about me,” “I never want to wake up,” or other phrases that indicate hopelessness or worthlessness.
Other risk factors include a history of attempted suicide or childhood trauma such as violence, bullying, or abuse. A recent death or other stressful event – being fired or breaking up with their significant other – can also lead to suicidal thoughts.
Observe their behavior as well. Are they no longer interested in things they used to enjoy? Are they fidgety and anxious or persistently angry and reckless? Dramatic mood changes can be an indicator of a mental illness, which can lead to suicidal thoughts.
3. Listen and try to understand.
Connect with the person. Allow them to speak their thoughts to you without fear of judgment. Support them by being there and acknowledging their pain.
Express your concern for them! Let them know that you are worried about them and want to help. Show that you genuinely care about how they are feeling. The simple act of saying ‘I care about you’ might not solve all their problems, but it can give a person struggling with suicide some hope.
4. Help someone else.
Have them volunteer at a homeless shelter or a soup chicken. Maybe even a pet clinic anywhere where they can focus on the problems of others and not their own. It is a productive use of time and can be a much-needed distraction from their own thoughts.
5. Find ways to help.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
There are also other ways to help a suicidal person:
Seek professional help. The doctor, a mental health specialist, and/or treatment facilities are better equipped to handle a suicidal person and can help start the healing process. This is especially important to treat mental disorders.
Make plans. Discuss what to do if the person finds themselves suicidal and alone. Remind them that they are not alone.
Do a bit of research. Helping a loved one who is struggling can be difficult, but there are many resources (such as the International Association for Suicide Prevention) available for both the suicidal person and their friends and family.
Keep up your support. Even periodically asking “How are you feeling today?” can help. Check in on them or drop by and ensure their recovery continues.