Any talk of suicide should always be taken seriously. Most people who attempt suicide have given some warning—but this isn't always the case. The risk is even higher if someone has attempted suicide before. Encouraging someone to get help is the first step towards safety.
COMMON WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE
- Talking as if they're saying goodbye or going away forever
- Giving away personal possessions
- Taking steps to tie up loose ends including organizing personal papers or paying off debts
- Stockpiling pills
- Obtaining a weapon
- Making or changing a will
- Sudden cheerfulness or calm after a period of sadness
- Preoccupation with death
- Increased drug or alcohol use
- Dramatic changes in personality, mood and/or behavior
- Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
- Saying things like "Nothing matters anymore," "You'll be better off without me," or "Life
isn't worth living"
- Sense of utter hopelessness and helplessness
- Failed romantic relationship
- History of family/friend suicide or attempts
- History of suicide attempts or other self-harming behaviors
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT SOMEONE IS THINKING ABOUT SUICIDE
If you are concerned someone is thinking about suicide or if you notice any of the above warning signs, don't be afraid to talk to them about it. You can start the conversation.
Open the conversation by sharing specific things you have noticed, including: "I've noticed lately that you [aren't interested in sports anymore, which you used to love, haven't been sleeping, and are posting a lot of sad song lyrics online, etc.] …"
Then say something like:
- "Are you thinking about suicide?"
- "When was the last time you thought about suicide?"
- "Do you have a plan? Do you know how you would do it?"
If the answer is "Yes," or if you think they might be at risk of suicide, you need to seek help immediately.
- Call a therapist or psychiatrist/physician or other health care professional who has been working with the person
- Remove potential means such as weapons and medications to reduce risk
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255 or call 911
Listen, express concern, reassure. Focus on being understanding, caring, and nonjudgmental, saying something like:
- "I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help"
- "You are not alone. I'm here for you"
- "You are important to me; we will get through this together"
- "I'm concerned about you, and I want you to know there is help available to get you through this"
What Not to do
- Don't try to handle the situation alone
- Don't promise secrecy. Say instead: "I care about you too much to keep this kind of secret. You need help, and I'm here to help you get it."
- Don't ask in a way that indicates you want "No" for an answer, e.g. "You're not thinking about suicide, are you?"
- Don't debate the value of living or argue that suicide is right or wrong
What Not to say
- "It's all in your head. Just snap out of it."
- "We all go through tough times like these. You'll be fine."
Please remember, a suicide threat or attempt is a medical emergency requiring professional help as quickly as possible.
To read the entire document from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, visit: https://www.nami.org/Support-Education/Publications-Reports/Guides/Navigating-a-Mental-Health-Crisis/Navigating-A-Mental-Health-Crisis