Steps for Preventing Suicide
Do you have a plan in place and are ready to take your life?
As a parent or caregiver, you can play a major role in identifying if a young person is considering suicide. The teen years are an extremely stressful time for many children. Untreated mental illness, especially depression, is the leading cause for suicide. Many people who commit suicide suffer from untreated or poorly treated depression resulting from difficult life experiences.
If you are concerned about a loved one in another state, call the police department in the town where he or she lives and get the 10-digit number (7 digits + area code) to call in case of emergencies. Know their phone number or address, city, and state, so local emergency services can get in contact. More info can be found here.
Within the first three months to a year following a suicide attempt, people are at highest risk of a second attempt — and this time perhaps succeeding. If you or a loved one has attempted suicide in the past and are contemplating it again, call the Suicide Lifeline @ 1-800-273-8255. Online chat is also available 24/7.
Are you nearly always surrounded with thoughts of committing suicide?
Suicidal, intrusive thoughts are common with mental illnesses, however, when you begin to actively think about ways to end your life and take steps towards your own suicide, intervention is crucial, whether aided by loved ones, friends, family, or resources like Breaking Taboo.
The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:
- Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
- Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
- Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
- Do you intend to take your own life? (INTENTION)
Now is the time to talk to someone immediately. Call the Suicide Lifeline @ 1-800-273-8255 to speak with trained counselors. Online chat is also available 24/7.
*** For those under the age of 18, contact a guardian or trusted adult about your thoughts. Please talk to someone, do not stay silent. Talking to someone is better than not talking about it at all. (SIDENOTE)
*** If this is for someone you know, refer to the talking tips below.
*** (SIDENOTE) For Parents; there are 5 simple ways you can help prevent suicide in minors.
- Spend time with the child and discuss matters they are currently dealing with. Listen without judgement so they know you are a safe space for them to express themselves.
- Give children choices and respect their decisions. Encourage and help them learn problem solving skills and offer positive reinforcement.
- Avoid humiliating or mocking your child. Teasing can go a long way, and it hurts the bond of trust between you as an adult and your status as a role model. Allow them to make mistakes and learn from them.
- Foster empathy. Ask the child how they feel about situations and encourage a positive discussion with emphasis on reacting with their behavior.
- Teach healthy ways for children to process, express, and manage emotions. Encourage the child to keep a journal of their dreams and thoughts, or teach the child how to meditate, or even simply to detach from the situation and ground oneself and breathe.
Do you or a loved one feel low, manic, trapped, and/or out of control?
Speak to a doctor, a therapist, or emergency medical service if you feel any of these behaviors fit your current mindset.
- You have extreme mood swings (Having an emotionally high day and the next devastatingly low)
- You feel as if you are a burden onto others
- You feel like you are trapped, or feel unbearable pain
- You feel hopeless, or feel like you have no purpose
- You sleep too little or too much
- You struggle to concentrate on important tasks
- You have increased your use of drugs, alcohol, or other sobriety inhibitors
- You are easily irritated, enraged, or wish seeking revenge
- You are restless, anxious, and agitated
- You have actively (or passively) seeked out a method to end your life.
Here are considerations to take if you believe you or a loved one is at risk of committing suicide, as well as red flags to look for:
- Remove pills/firearms/sharp objects from the home.
- Treat the other person’s words seriously, do not assume that the person is only joking.
- Do not humiliate or shame the person at risk
- Take note of person’s speech:
- “After I’m gone…”, or “I’m going to kill myself”
- Jokes and slights about killing oneself
- Increased speech about death, dying
- Selling, giving away, or getting rid of personal items.
- Increased drug (narcotic or OTC) and alcohol usage.
- Reckless behavior such as binging, reckless driving, including increases in drug and alcohol usage.
- Saying goodbye to loved ones in a manner as if they’ll never meet again.
- Withdrawing or lack of interest in once pleasurable activities.
Are you honest with yourself?
Acknowledge your thoughts. To avoid passively giving in to negative thinking, learn to identify your thoughts as they occur to you. Say them out loud or write them down. The goal here is not to try and eliminate them, but simply to see them for what they are – just thoughts. Some therapists suggest picturing your thoughts as headlines in a newspaper, or imagining placing a telephone call to yourself to relay each thought, or creating some other mental device to bring your negative thoughts into focus.
Challenge your thoughts. When you identify a negative thought that occurs to you frequently, argue with it. Challenge the accuracy of your thoughts. For example, when thoughts such as “I am worthless” arise, counter them with more realistic thoughts such as “my kids need me” or “my employer values my work.” Each time you counter exaggerated statements (“Everything I do is wrong”) with facts (“I walked the dog today,” “my boss complimented me on my report”) , your negative thoughts lose more of their power.
Interrupt your thoughts. Again, use your imagination to create a device to help you stop your negative thoughts as soon as you recognize them. Some people visualize a stoplight or stop sign, or imagine hearing a buzzer or alarm.
Walk away from your thoughts. Sometimes the best approach is to change the subject or create a diversion or distraction. Take a walk, call a friend, read a magazine or tackle a chore. Whatever provides respite for you – even temporarily – will allow your brain to break the cycle of negative thinking.
The most important step is to seek help. Whether this be from a mental health professional, a role model, family, friends, or other contacts, make your voice heard.
Are you ready to make a difference?
Another way you can help shift the dialogue is to become a volunteer with Breaking Taboo. Our non-profit organization seeks to shatter the silence around mental illness and suicide and open up an authentic, no-nonsense dialogue to approaching mental health. GO HERE
If you are still struggling and grieving the loss of a loved one and/or experiencing survivor’s guilt, support groups and dialogues are likely available where you live. Consult the Trauma Survivors Network to find a group near you.