According to SAMHSA’s 2020 Survey on National Drug Use and Health, in the United States, we lose someone to suicide every 11 minutes. Additionally, for every death by suicide, there are 27 self-reported suicide attempts and 275 people who seriously considered suicide. Who are all of these people? The reality is that these individuals are you and me, our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, and our friends. As a result, it is best to be prepared to have tough conversations with others if we want to do our part in preventing suicide. Here are some tips that we can use not just during Suicide Prevention Month, but year round.
1. Know the signs.
A person can show warning signs of suicide through their words, behaviors, or mood. Examples of warning signs in speech are talking about lack of reasons to live, expressing feelings of being a burden, or saying they feel trapped. Jokes about death also would warrant a question.
Look for behaviors that may be out of character for the individual. Have they increased their drug or alcohol use? Are they isolating from others? Are they giving away items that they care about?
Moods often displayed by those considering suicide are depression, anxiety, hopelessness, irritation, or humiliation. If someone is feeling sudden relief or improvement, this can also be a warning side for suicide, unfortunately; some individuals feel calmer after they have made plans to end their suffering. (Read more warning signs on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website.)
2. Know how to speak to someone considering suicide.
Many people think that asking about suicide increases suicide risk, but studies show that this is not the case. If someone is thinking about suicide, they will often feel relief that someone else has asked and it is no longer just their burden to carry. If they do reveal they are feeling suicidal, listen non-judgmentally to what they have to say.
Be careful not to ask leading questions, such as, “You aren’t suicidal, are you?” This pushes someone into a particular answer for fear of answering honestly.
Try asking a more objective question, such as, “Do you ever think about hurting or killing yourself?” and validate the emotions in their response. “That must be so painful.” “I’m so sorry you’re feeling that way.” “That sounds really difficult. Can you tell me more?”
3. Know the resources.
Lastly, it’s always good to be prepared in terms of resources that can help someone struggling with their mental health. If someone has trusted us with their deepest feelings, we want to make sure that we leave them with lasting help.
One of the most common resources for this is the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. If the person doesn’t want to talk on the phone, there are also texting options, such as texting HOME to 741741. These resources are more crisis based, but it is also important to get them connected with someone who can help long-term.
When someone feels so down, it can be difficult to have the energy to find a therapist or mental health professional. A great thing to do would be to offer to help them with their insurance and maybe sitting with them while they call a therapy office, for example. After you have helped them connect with help, don’t forget to check in with them later about how they’re feeling.
If you or someone you know needs a mental health professional, feel free to contact Full Well Neurofeedback and Counseling at 205-490-6983 or set up an appointment on our website at fullwellneurofeedback.com.
In the case of an emergency, please call 988 or visit your nearest Emergency Department.
Have more questions? Here are some websites that might help.