Top Signs of Suicide and How to Help
By Valerie Rice September 25, 2020
Did you know that covid-19 kills people without ever making them sick? It does. So can a lot of tough situations. How? By suicide. People who experience job loss, isolation from quarantine, homelessness, poverty, and other side effects of the pandemic are at risk of suicide. Numerous businesses have shut down for good this year. Over 200,000 people have died from covid in this country alone. That’s a whole lot of grief. Many people who recovered from the virus are now chronically ill. The extent of the damage done by corona reaches far and wide and it just keeps getting worse.
This is not the most pleasant topic, so why would I bring it up? Well, because every 12 minutes in the US someone dies from suicide. It is the tenth leading cause of death in the US. For more unpleasant facts about the “S” word, click here. If this information makes you feel uncomfortable, then that’s a good thing. It means you have compassion and empathy for other people. Maybe you have thought about suicide yourself. That’s okay too, a lot of people experience thoughts of suicide in their lifetime. But don’t worry, there is help. For immediate assistance, please contact https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. But how do you know if someone is serious or not, and when do you get help? Let’s walk through it together.
Sign #1: Talking About it
People who are depressed or suicidal will often start talking about wanting to die, even in a joking way. They may say things like, “I wish I were dead.” or “I should just jump off a cliff.” These are pretty direct statements that let you know they are not okay. Some things may be harder to pick up on, like mentioning how they are worthless, or a burden, or how they wish they could just sleep forever. Saying these things is a cry for help. They WANT to live, but don’t know how. One myth about depression and suicidal statements is that people say these things for attention. This is not exactly true. Someone who is suicidal is reaching out for HELP, not attention because they are bored. Ignoring these statements, which some people think is the right thing to do, is dangerous. If you care about the person saying these things, you should listen. Listen very carefully to what they have to say and ask them why they feel that way.There is always a reason why, and helping them understand that reason can help improve their mood.
Sign #2: Mood Changes
When people become suicidal, it is not an instant flip of the switch. They have changes to their mood that people close to them can see. Sometimes they become agitated or angry, which can push people away. Sometimes they say they feel empty or anxious. Other times they express physical and emotional pain. The pain is often real, even though it is inside their heads. Yes, the part of your brain that controls physical pain controls depression. That’s why people who have long term illnesses are often depressed and at a higher risk of suicide than others. Another myth about suicide is that the person who kills themselves is selfish. This is not true. The reason people end up following through with suicide is because the pain they feel, either physical or emotional, is too overwhelming and unbearable. It consumes every moment of their lives, both while awake and asleep. But how do you know how someone else is feeling? You look. Pay close attention to the people in your lives (or yourself) and see if they are acting out of character. If they just aren’t themselves, and seem much more down, they are probably experiencing this warning sign.
Sign #3: Odd Behavior
What do I mean by odd behavior? That sounds pretty vague, right? One example would be researching ways to die or planning their death. Healthy people don’t actually do that. Another thing is saying goodbye to friends. If you or someone you know is suddenly acting like this is the last time you will see each other, they are probably “saying their goodbyes” and this is a good indicator of suicidal intention. Finally, if they are doing dangerous things they don’t usually do like driving recklessly, drinking too much, using illegal drugs, and so on, they are probably eager to die and have given up.This is the point where you have to be on your toes. The myth that these things are just people acting stupid, or behaving badly and should be punished, is another dangerous one. People who display these signs need help NOW. Like, RIGHT NOW. This is the point where you talk to them, call your local crisis center, and get immediate care before you lose a loved one. For more information on possible behaviors and links to assistance, click here.
How to Help?
Listen closely, don’t just hear what they have to say, but summarize and repeat it back so they know you understand. Look carefully at how their mood has changed. Are they acting different, do they have mood swings, do they seem like the person you remember? Call for help when things get out of hand. You are not responsible for singlehandedly fixing the world. Nobody is. There are trained professionals who can manage a suicidal crisis and it takes an entire team to help one person get back on their feet. Love them unconditionally. I save this for last because it is the most important. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about suicide and i hope you can forget them. The person who thinks about it or tries it is in a lot of pain. They are literally very sick and trying to make it stop. The best thing you can do is love them. Don’t judge them, because it could just as easily be you, and it is impossible for any of us to understand how someone else is really feeling. So open your heart, wrap them in your compassion, and do your best. If we all work together we can help reduce the suicide rates.