By: Grace Gufler
September is suicide awareness month; a topic that is often avoided and treated as taboo. Suicide can be a terrifying and intimidating topic. I believe that one of the reasons suicides is treated as a taboo topic is due to a lack of understanding and education, which leads to avoidance. This blog post will discuss some warning signs of suicide and tips on what to do if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts.
- History of depression or past attempts
- Feelings of hopelessness: “I don’t see things getting any better”, “I feel trapped”, “I don’t want to be here anymore”.
- Isolation or lack of engagement different from their norm: not showing up to work or social functions, not answering phone calls, canceling plans often.
- Changes in sleep and eating patterns.
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
- Recent trauma or life-changing event.
- Numbness: appearing emotionally flat or an inability to express or identify emotions.
What to say:
- Ask them why they chosen to live so far: this can sound awkward and maybe even dark, but it is important to know why someone has not acted on their suicidal thoughts so far. This will help remind them of the good in their life.
- Let them know that you care about you them: this may sound simple and obvious but when someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, they may think that their life does not matter or is meaningless. Let them know that you care about them and why.
- Remind them of their strengths: when experiencing suicidal thoughts, it can be difficult to name and recognize personal strengths on your own.
- Find out who else knows: this is especially important if this is someone you do not have regular contact with. Ask them who they have shared these thoughts with and encourage them to tell their family and loved ones. Remind them that asking for support is not a weakness or a burden.
- Help them make a safety plan: talk with them about what they will do if these thoughts increase and identify supports and resources available to them.
- Encourage them to find a therapist or support group.
It is ok to feel scared and helpless when someone tells you they are having suicidal thoughts. Finding the exact right words to say, is not as important as how you act. The best thing you can do is offer support, listen and reassure them that you care and want to help.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please know that you are not alone and there is no shame in having these thoughts. Reaching out for help can be difficult. Many people avoid reaching out to a friend or family member out of fear of burdening them. Ask yourself this: would you feel burdened if a loved one reached out to you for help? Or would you feel grateful and happy that they trusted you to confide in? Humans are social beings for a reason, so we would not have to walk our path alone. If you are having suicidal thoughts, I encourage you to reach out to a therapist for support.
I hope this blog posts helps you feel more confident and comfortable in discussing suicide. One of the best ways to eradicate the stigma of suicide and mental illness is to open lines of communication.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273-8255.