Trigger/Content Warning: this post talks about suicidal ideation and warning signs. Please take care when deciding whether to read this content.
September is suicide prevention month, so we wanted to make a post about suicide prevention.
Firstly, it is extremely important to clarify that it is not your sole responsibility to prevent suicide, and the weight of suicide prevention should not be placed fully on your shoulders. If you have lost someone to suicide, I want you to know that you did not do anything wrong, and it is not your fault. This post is meant to suggest ways to help prevent suicide, not to make you feel bad or guilty if you have not done the actions suggested here.
Suicide Warning Signs:
Some people show warning signs when they are having thoughts of suicide. However, some people do not show many or any warning signs. Some examples of warning signs include:
Talking about suicide or wanting to die, even if it seems like they're joking
Talking about having no reason to live, being a burden, or feeling trapped
Saying that nothing matters or that they don't care about the future
Saying goodbye or saying that they'll miss you
Becoming more irritable, angry, or sad
Withdrawing from activities that they normally do
Isolating themselves from loved ones
Giving away possessions that are important to them
Increased use of alcohol or substances
Suddenly seeming very calm or at peace. This warning sign is counterintuitive, but it can sometimes mean that the person has a plan to die by suicide and that they feel relieved.
If you notice any of these warning signs, it is a good idea to talk to the person you're worried about and offer support.
Talking to Someone You're Worried About:
You will not make things worse by talking to someone about suicide, and it is likely that the person will feel relieved that you are checking in on them. You can follow these tips when talking to the person about suicide:
Let them know that you care about them and that you are worried about them.
Let them know that you are listening, and that they can share their feelings with you without being judged. Don't try to offer solutions to their problems, just listen.
Ask the person if they are thinking about suicide. This gives the person an opportunity to talk about their feelings and thoughts.
Acknowledge their feelings and pain. Don't minimize what they're going through, and let them know that you understand that they're in pain. Try not to say that you "completely understand," since we very rarely completely understand what another person is going through, and this can sound like you're minimizing their experiences.
Tell the person that they deserve support, and suggest finding professional help. Ask if they need help finding resources. If they refuse to get help and they are not in immediate danger, acknowledge that they are not ready and don't push them too hard to access resources. If you think they might harm themselves imminently, please call 911 or encourage them to go to a hospital emergency department.
Take care of yourself as well. Supporting someone struggling with suicidal ideation is a lot of bear, so remember that you also deserve support and help.
Common Myths About Suicide:
Myth #1: Talking about suicide will increase the chances that a person will die by suicide.
Truth: Talking about suicide does not increase the chances that a person will die by suicide. It will actually likely decrease the chances that a person will die by suicide.
Myth #2: People who talk about suicide are just seeking attention.
Truth: Talking about suicide is often a plea for help and a warning sign of suicide, so it is important to take this seriously.
Myth #3: If someone jokes about suicide, it is not a big deal.
Truth: Joking about suicide can be a warning sign, so these "jokes" should be taken seriously and addressed.
Myth #4: You can always tell that someone is having thoughts of suicide.
Truth: It is sometimes hard to tell when someone is having thoughts of suicide. Some people try very hard to hide the fact that they are struggling, and may not show obvious signs that they are having thoughts of suicide. Sometimes, people that you would never expect to take their life do die by suicide.
Reducing the Stigma Surrounding Suicide:
Our language is powerful, and we can use it to reduce stigma by choosing our words carefully. Avoid saying the following common phrases when talking about suicide:
Commit suicide: This phrase implies that people who die by suicide have done something wrong. Instead, you can say "died by suicide," "took their life," or "ended their life"
Describing suicide attempts as failed/unsuccessful or completed/successful: This implies that dying by suicide is a success, and surviving suicide is a failure. Instead you can say that someone "attempted suicide" or "survived a suicide attempt" if they survived, or "died by suicide" if they did not survive.
At-risk populations: This implies that some populations are inherently at increased risk of suicide, and doesn't take into account the social/economic factors that these populations face that lead to an increased risk of suicide. Instead, when talking about populations with higher rates of suicide, also talk about the factors that these populations face that increase their risk of suicide. Some factors that increase risk of suicide are prejudice, discrimination, and lack of access to resources.
Additional Suicide Prevention Resources:
If you need support for suicidal thoughts or for helping others struggling with suicidal thoughts, please find resources by clicking here.
If you would like to learn more about suicide prevention, here are some great resources: