While suicide may seem like the act of a person who simply no longer cares about life and doesn’t want to be helped, the truth is quite the opposite. People who attempt or complete suicide tend to care very deeply and desperately want to be helped.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. It’s a time of education and awareness, and an important reminder that we can support our loved ones by watching for signs that they are feeling suicidal and take action if we see them.
Understanding the Signs
In some cases, people kill themselves without conveying any observable indicators that they are planning to do so. However, in most cases, there are signs that someone is at risk of suicide. They include:
- Lack of hope. Expressing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness about life circumstances.
- Talking about suicide. Talking or writing about self-harm or suicide—especially if it is frequent.
- Self-hatred. Expressing feelings of guilt, shame or worthlessness.
- Withdrawal. Pulling away from family and friends, and isolating themselves.
- Seeking the means of suicide. Looking to obtain a weapon, drugs or other things that could be used to kill themselves.
- Reckless behavior. Abusing drugs or alcohol, driving carelessly, taking unnecessary risks.
- Preparing for the end. Actions like selling or giving away personal possessions and making out a will.
- Saying goodbye. An increase in calls or visits to loved ones, and parting as if they won’t be seen again.
- A sudden sense of calm. Unexpectedly being “at peace” when they had previously been anxious or depressed.
If you observe one or more of these behaviors, it should be cause for concern.
If You Are Worried, Speak Up
Talking with a person who you think may be suicidal can be difficult. However, it’s best to express your genuine concern. Here are some keys to having that conversation:
- Be sympathetic. It’s easy to react in fear or anger when you think a loved one is suicidal, but it’s important to express yourself in a way that is as understanding and helpful as possible.
- Ask the question. Ask the person directly if they are planning to kill themselves. Not, “Are you thinking of hurting yourself” or any other non-specific question.
- Listen more than talk. Allow the person to express whatever it is they’re feeling. Wait through pauses to allow them time to collect their thoughts.
- Avoid the urge to “solve” the problem on the spot. Issues that lead to a person feeling suicidal are rarely the kind of thing that can be resolved quickly.
- Offer hope. Depression, anxiety and other conditions that may lead to suicidal thoughts are treatable.
- Provide consistent support. Knowing that they can count on you to help them as best you can will be a source of comfort to someone who is considering suicide.
Patience and understanding are key to helping a person who is considering suicide. However, if you feel a suicide attempt is imminent, take action. If the person will allow you to transport them to a hospital or mental health center, do so immediately. If they refuse, call 911, do your best to prevent access to any means of suicide, and stay with the person until help arrives.
Be Informed and Be Available
The best things you can do for a loved one you think may be considering suicide are to learn about the issue and let them know you are there for them. Contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to learn about our services. We have centers in the northside Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton. And for immediate assistance for you or someone you know, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK(8255)