Warning Signs: Understanding and Helping a Suicidal Person
Be aware of the warning signs. Anyone can be at-risk for suicide. There are some common warning signs which, when acted upon, can save lives.
A person might be suicidal if he or she:
- Talks about suicide
- Exhibits changes in eating or sleeping patterns
- Experiences drastic changes in behavior
- Withdraws from friends and/or social activities
- Loses interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
- Prepares for death by making out a will and final arrangements
- Gives away prized possessions
- Has attempted suicide before
- Takes unnecessary risks
- Has had recent severe losses
- Is preoccupied with death and dying
- Loses interest in their personal appearance
- Increases their use of alcohol or drugs
What To Do
Here are some ways to be helpful to someone who is suicidal:
- Be direct. Talk openly and honestly about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
- Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
- Don’t dare him or her to do it.
- Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
- Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
- Get help by calling the Suicide and Crisis Support line 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.
- Go to Ok2Talk.org to join the discussion about mental health.
Be Aware of Feelings
Many people at some time in their lives think about suicide. Most decide to live, because they eventually come to realize that the crisis is temporary and death is permanent. On the other hand, people having a crisis sometimes perceive their dilemmas as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. These are some of the feelings and things they experience:
- Can’t stop the pain
- Can’t think clearly
- Can’t make decisions
- Can’t see any way out
- Can’t sleep, eat or work
- Can’t get out of depression
- Can’t make the sadness go away
- Can’t see a future without pain
- Can’t see themselves as worthwhile
- Can’t get someone’s attention
- Can’t seem to get control
If you experience these feelings, get help. If someone you know exhibits these symptoms, offer help. Contact:
- A community mental health agency
- A private therapist or counselor
- A school counselor or psychologist
- A family physician
- Suicide and Crisis Support line at 1-800-273-8255