Written by Chloe Nicosia
Suicide is a tragedy that impacts the families of tens of thousands of people in the U.S. on an annual basis. Specifically, the National Institute of Mental Health cites suicide as the cause of death for more than 40,000 Americans yearly. Despite its devastating toll, suicide can be prevented under the right circumstances.
When people have suicidal thoughts, they are often beset with negative emotions such as hopelessness or sorrow. They may feel alone or as if no one understands what they are going through. These feelings can be further exacerbated by the use of drugs or alcohol in which case, a person may have to explore drug rehab options . When overwhelmed with problems or situations in life, it is important that one understands that suicide is never the only or final solution or escape from problems or sorrow. There is help for people who find themselves in this type of dire crisis. When struggling with suicidal thoughts, it is crucial that one knows who to turn to for this help. It is just as important that the friends and loved ones of those who are in crisis know how they can help prevent this tragedy from occurring.
If a person starts having suicidal thoughts, there are positive and preventative things that they can do before these thoughts and feelings escalate into self-harming action. Reaching out to speak with someone is one of the first and most important steps that one should take. When seeking someone to speak with, people should choose an individual who understands them, is trusted, and is a good listener, such as a family member, doctor, friend, or even a teacher. In times when the need for help is highest, one should not wait to speak with someone. Instead, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Individuals who are in distress can then speak with a trained crisis worker who will offer a listening ear, understanding, and local resources that may be of benefit. The Lifeline is confidential and free, making it accessible to anyone in need.
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Another step that a person should take is to remove any items from their home or current environment that can be used to self-harm. This includes not only sharp or otherwise obviously dangerous items but also alcohol and even prescription drugs. Because it may be difficult to do a thorough job alone, it is advisable to ask a trusted friend or family member to remove these items. Distractions can also help minimize suicidal thoughts and prevent someone from acting on these urges.
When a person expresses thoughts or actions that are suicidal, the people close to them should also know how they can help. A person who opens up about these types of thoughts is giving a cry for help. As a result, it is important for the listener to be non-judgmental, calm, patient, and sympathetic. The situation should be taken seriously, and it should be conveyed that the person is cared about and that their life is important. One should not engage in an argument, be combative, or offer platitudes. The listener should also never allow themselves to be sworn to secrecy, as it may be necessary to seek help from a doctor or mental health professional, or maybe even help from rehab centers.
At other times, a person who is contemplating suicide may not speak openly about what they are planning or they are thinking of doing. For that reason, it is important to know what signs a person is likely to display if they are thinking of suicide. These symptoms include expressing feelings of emptiness or having no hope for their future or those of feeling trapped, anxious, or like they are a burden to others. Someone who is thinking of suicide may talk of death frequently, develop a sudden interest in dangerous items such as guns or knives, start behaving in ways that are destructive, or appear to be saying goodbye to loved ones and friends.
Whether a person speaks directly or indirectly about suicide, one will need to be prepared to act quickly. People should assess the risk or immediacy of the danger by asking questions about the individual’s plan. Directly asking if a person is planning suicide does not encourage them to do so, but it can help prevent it from occurring. Ask them not only if they have a suicide plan but if they have a time set and the means to do it. If a person appears to be at high risk, then it is important to seek professional help immediately. Without leaving the at-risk individual alone, contact the crisis helpline or take the individual to see a doctor. If a person does not seem to be at the point of harming themselves, encourage them to seek professional treatment with a doctor or at inpatient rehab and remain in close contact with the individual by calling, visiting them frequently, or making plans to participate in activities together.
Click on any of the links below to read more about how to prevent suicide:
- Risk Factors and Warning Signs: This page on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website lists the common characteristics that increase the risk of suicide. The page also includes warning signs to look out for.
- We Can All Prevent Suicide: Visitors to this page from the Suicide Prevention Lifeline will find information on how they can prevent suicide.
- Suicide Prevention: Click this link to read about suicide prevention and what people can do to help individuals they care about. On this page, the reader will learn what the risk factors are and what signs to be aware of.
- Prevent Suicide: Reducing Access to Lethal Means: Removing lethal means is one step in suicide prevention. Click this link to read what lethal means are and what some of the items that fall in this category are.
- Suicide Prevention Guide: Discover how to help someone who may be suicidal by visiting this page. The page features information about suicide in general, speaking up, recognizing warning signs, and responding quickly.
- Mental Health: Preventing Suicide: Suicide is a problem that affects both women and men. Women who click this link will find prevention information on this page of the Office on Women’s Health website. The page addresses what can be done, warning signs, and a list of informational and helpful resources.
- Office of Suicide Prevention: What You Can Do: Find out what can be done to prevent suicide by visiting this page on the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health Office of Suicide Prevention website.
- Preventing Teen Suicide: The teen years are a time of high emotions and change that can cause some to contemplate suicide. People with concerns that their teenager is suicidal can click this link for information on what can be done to prevent it.
- What to Say to Prevent Suicide: Talking with someone who is contemplating suicide can be uncomfortable and frightening. It is important that people know what to say and not say in these situations. Click on this link to find out what to say and be aware of in these situations.
- Learn How to Intervene: On this page, visitors will learn the appropriate way to intervene when dealing with a person who is having suicidal thoughts and may be ready to take action.
- Stop a Suicide: Learn to Act: Click this link to learn how to stop a suicide by recognizing the signs and knowing what to do and say.
- How You Can Play a Role in Preventing Suicide (PDF): Open this document to read facts about suicide and learn what behaviors are considered warning signs. The page reviews what to do and provides a list of resources.
- Suicide Prevention Tip Sheet (PDF): Read this tip sheet from UC Davis to learn what can be done to help prevent suicide, what signs to look for, and some common myths.
- Tips for Preventing Suicide: Readers who click this article will find tips on how to prevent suicide.
- Suicide: What to Do When Someone Is Suicidal: Find out about how to prevent a suicide by visiting the Mayo Clinic’s website. It discusses warning signs and offers information about helpful resources.
- A Comprehensive Approach to Suicide Prevention: Click this link to read an article by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
- Suicide Prevention: How to Talk About Suicide: This page by the Indian Health Service talks about suicide prevention for the Native American community.
- How to Help Someone You Know Who Is Suicidal: Knowing when someone might be contemplating suicide is the subject of this article on the Western Michigan University website.
- Suicide and Suicidal Behavior: Medline Plus has an article about suicide in their Medical Encyclopedia. It explains some of the causes, risk factors, and symptoms and discusses potential treatments and prevention strategies.
- Suicide Prevention: Get a wealth of information on suicide prevention on this page of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance website. Information includes what a person should do if they are feeling suicidal, how to help someone else, and how to create a plan.
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