September is National Suicide Prevention Month and the theme this year is “Connect. Communicate. Care.” There is no single cause for suicide but it occurs most often when stressors exceed the current coping abilities of people with mental health issues. Education and awareness can save lives! Suicide prevention begins with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. Talking to a friend or loved one about suicide may not be the most comfortable thing to do, but talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save lives.
Common misconceptions about suicide:
“FALSE: People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.”
“FALSE: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.
Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.”
“FALSE: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.”
“FALSE: People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.”
“FALSE: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
You don’t give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true—bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.”
Source: SAVE – Suicide Awareness Voices of Education and helpguide.org
It is helpful to know the warning signs of suicide. A person may talk about feeling like a burden, having no reason to live, feeling trapped or killing themselves. A person may increase substance use, isolate or withdraw from friends and family, seek methods to kill themselves, act recklessly, sleep much more or much less, give away prize possessions, visit or tell people good-bye, or become aggressive. People considering suicide may also display depression, anxiety, rage, irritability, loss of interest and/or humiliation.
Risk factors for suicide include health problems: physical and mental as well as substance abuse problems. Environmental problems include stressful life events such as divorce, loss of a job, or a death; chronic stress such as unemployment, bullying, relationship problems; or exposure to someone’s suicide; and having means to commit suicide such as access to a gun or drugs. Historical risk factors include previous suicide attempts and suicide attempts of family members or friends.
If you are unsure whether a friend or family member is having suicidal thoughts, ask. Start a conversation and then let the person know that you are there for them and ask what you can do to help. If a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a crisis center, call 911 or take the person to an emergency room. Remove weapons, drugs and other potentially lethal items from the vicinity and do not leave the suicidal person alone.
Suicide is often linked to mental health issues such as depression which is treatable. Please reach out to others and start a conversation, you may just save a life.