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Suicide Prevention

Three weeks ago tomorrow my friend took his own life.  I feel so guilty because we hadn’t spoken in a while.  He wasn’t the first friend I lost to suicide either.  The first was back in high school and the second was a few years ago.  I attempted suicide myself at 17 years old.  My friend left a note, but it left so many other questions unanswered.  Could I have done anything that would have made a difference?  Would he still be alive if I had done something?  But this kind of thinking does no good at all.  The truth is, there was nothing I could have done to change his mind or save him, because I wasn’t around.

When something like this happens, its really hard not to beat yourself up about it and think that if you had just done one thing differently, your friend might still be alive.  I may have been able to do something if I had known, since this isn’t my first experience with suicide.  The saddest thing is that his family never heard his cries for help.  Simply knowing the signs that someone might be suicidal is the best thing you can do to help. Don’t make their life your responsibility, that’s too much for any one person..  All you can do is encourage them to get the help they need.  I pray you never have to go through what I have, but you should have the proper knowledge just in case the worst happens.

Warning Signs

There’s no foolproof way to know someone is considering suicide, but there are several warning signs its on someone’s mind.  Suicide is no joke.  If someone is talking about hurting them self or not wanting to live anymore, take it seriously.  This could be their cry for help. Encourage them to seek the help they need to get through this difficult time in their life.  Remind them that there’s no shame in asking for help, particularly when their life is at stake.

Withdrawal

Withdrawing from friends and family is another warning sign of a possible suicide attempt.  If someone pulls away from the people they care about and isolates them self, they may be contemplating suicide.  Do your best to engage that person, remind them of all they have to live for, and get them the help they need.

Depression & Anxiety

Depression and other psychiatric illnesses provide another risk factor for suicide.  People with depression and diseases like bipolar disorder are at a greater risk for suicide because of the prolonged suffering they can cause.  The longer these symptoms go untreated, the greater the risk becomes.  If an individual expresses a lot of guilt over something, they may have a higher risk as well.  Feelings of depression, anxiety, guilt or manic behavior should not cause major concern on their own, but do warrant professional attention.

Drug & Alcohol Abuse

If someone starts using drugs or alcohol heavily all of the sudden, it could be a sign that they’re contemplating suicide.  People often use drugs and/or alcohol to dull emotional suffering,  so recognize that the person might be using to deal with their psychological pain.  This could be their cry for help, but they’re too embarrassed to deal with their problem while sober, or they might not know what to do at all.

Buying A Gun

A very clear warning sign of suicide is if someone buys a gun out of the blue.  Guns remain a very popular method of taking one’s own life, so a friend suddenly purchasing a firearm should definitely raise an alarm.  A gun represents some serious intent, so if someone you know with any of the other warning signs buys a gun, you may want to involve the authorities for everyone’s safety.

Chronic Illness

Individuals with chronic health problems are at a greater large risk for committing suicide.  The daily discomfort they have to endure can make death seem like an attractive alternative to some.  If someone in your life is sick, remind them of how much they mean to you and help them get counseling to deal with their emotional and physical pain.

Internet Activity

A person’s internet history can give you a good window into their mind.  If someone has been searching for suicide related topics online, its time to start worrying.  Take this kind of behavior very seriously, as that person may be building a plan to end their own life.

What to Do

If a friend or family member tells you they’re suicidal, what you do is as important as what you don’t do.  First, act as calmly as possible.  Yes, this is upsetting information, but this isn’t about you.  Second, don’t judge.  Saying things like “That’s cowardly,” or “It can’t be that bad,” can be very harmful to someone in enough pain to even consider taking their own life.   Take them seriously and listen to them, even if it makes you uncomfortable.  This could make all the difference.  Third, try to give that person hope.  Remind them of all the reasons they have to live, but don’t make them feel guilty.  Fourth, ask if they have a plan.  People with firm plans for their suicide attempt, even if described as fantasy, are much more likely to complete their task than those without plans.

Above all else, encourage the person to seek help on their own.  Offer to drive them to the hospital.  Any emergency room will admit a suicidal individual.  Help them look for a therapist, or look for a good partial hospitalization program with them.  Let them know that they’re not alone.  If you are really concerned or the situation escalates, you may need to call 911 and involve the authorities. You may want to do this regardless if the person has access to weapons.  The police will remove guns from their possession or could even place the person into protective custody if they believe self harm is imminent.  They may be angry with you at first but remember that it’s for their own good.

There are many organizations dedicated to suicide prevention, and they are ready to help 24 hours a day.  If you know someone struggling with suicidal thoughts or are considering suicide yourself, please reach out to any or all of them.  You are loved and you are not alone.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

CrisisLink.org

KBHC 

Veterans Crisis Line

National Alliance for Mental Illness

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