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World Suicide Prevention Day takes place annually on September 10. Although this vital public health event is only one day long, suicide is a leading cause of death year-round, with suicide rates reaching an all-time record in recent years.
People considering suicide sometimes don’t seek help, whether from friends or mental health professionals, even when they know they should. To potentially save a life, know these lifesaving tips for World Suicide Prevention Day and keep them in mind year-round.
Suicide is often a person’s last resort
Problematic myths abound that suicide is only for “crazy” people. In most cases, however, suicide is an option that people only consider when they feel they’ve exhausted all other methods for eliminating their suffering. According to some studies, over half of suicide victims sought help from mental health professionals in the six months leading up to their death.
Suicide often has warning signs
Most people who are considering suicide, whether intentionally or not, give off warning signs. Obvious signs including active discussion of, or writing about, suicide and death. Somewhat more subtle signs include a preoccupation with feeling hopeless, which may manifest as conversations about their future not exciting or interesting them. Extremely subtle signs can include an unexpected calmness after a history of often discussing death and hopelessness – this behavior, though seemingly encouraging, can indicate that the person has chosen to commit suicide.
Speaking up helps
Suicide is a sensitive subject, so people may be afraid to discuss it with friends or loved ones whom they think are considering suicide. However, speaking about suicide with someone who may be showing signs that they’re considering it can save their life. Simply showing them that you care can go a huge distance – feelings of loneliness and isolation are a major cause of suicide. If you’re uncertain how you would start a conversation, all it takes is a statement as simple as, “How are you? You haven’t seemed yourself recently.”
But speaking up can hurt if done wrong
If you choose to speak with someone whom you think is considering suicide, you should actively listen, offer sympathy and hope, and never dismiss any ways that the person feels. However, neglecting the person’s feelings or arguing with them can worsen their suicidal feelings. Additionally, don’t attempt to fix their feelings yourself or give advice – right now, all they need is to be heard and understood. Should your friend say they need advice or help, refer them to a mental health professional.
Be there in a crisis
If someone you care about tells you they’re considering suicide, you’ll need to act to keep them safe. Mental health professionals advocate for asking the person whether they have a suicide plan, the means to enact their plan, a timeline for their plan, and the intention to commit suicide. If, based on this information, you find that the person is on the verge of committing suicide, contact a local crisis center and remove any of the means they have to enact their plan. No matter what, though, do not leave them alone.
For other vital suicide resources, consider this massive list of resources, and don’t be afraid to extend a helping hand.