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According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 703,000 people a year die by suicide across the globe. Suicide today is seen as a public health challenge because of the intense impact it has on millions of people. There are an infinite number of people who experience grief or are affected by this death by suicides and suicidal ideations and behaviors. These could be people experiencing these suicidal thoughts or behaviors or their loved ones or caregivers. By talking about suicide, by reaching out and finding timely support, it is believed that it’s possible to actually prevent suicides from happening.
“Creating hope through action” has been decided to be the triennial theme for World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021 – 2023. This theme is a much-needed reminder that there are alternative solutions available when one experiences feelings of being in a dark tunnel with no end, when suicide may seem like the only plausible solution. However real that feels, it just FEELS LIKE IT, which isn’t true. We can take steps for our own selves and our loved ones. Simple actions like frequent check-ins with our loved ones to see if they are doing ok. No matter how simple or small an action may seem it can provide hope, that single thread to hang on to for someone who’s struggling with thoughts around ending their life. Suicide is everyone’s concern and together we can take action to bring hope and light to another person’s life and be gatekeepers for suicide prevention.
⚠️If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, help is at hand. Please visit this list of helplines and resources for different countries.
To be able to help someone contemplating ending their own life, here are some warning signs you can watch out for. This list is not exhaustive and not all signs may be present, yet you may be able to notice more than one or two signs presenting together.
- Making statements that indicate suicidal ideations like
- “I will kill myself” or “end my life”
- Statements or words that indicate hopelessness like
- “I don’t think anything will change for me now” or “my future is all dark”
- Thoughts indicating feeling like a burden on others and worthlessness
- “I am no good to anyone” or “Its best if no one comes close to me” or “I am such a burden on others”
- Thoughts that indicate helplessness like
- “no one can help me now” or “nothing can help me now” or “I am doomed now”
Non Verbal Cues
- Social withdrawal
- Constant persistent low mood
- Impulsive reckless behavior
- Stopping to take care of personal hygiene
- Stopping things that once helped them feel happy
- Marked change in sleep and appetite
- Sudden change in mood from low to high
- Giving away one’s possessions
It can be overwhelming to see a loved one, a colleague, or a friend in crisis, displaying these signs, or hear them speak about their death wishes, and it can feel like you could trigger them further if you asked them about these suicidal ideations. The fact is that suicide, or expressing suicidal ideations, is a call for help. These are indications that this individual is struggling with something, feeling so stuck that ending their life seems like the only solution to their problems.
Here are some ways to initiate a conversation with an individual experiencing suicidal ideations and show your support:
- Start by expressing your concern without sounding judgemental about their distressing thoughts or behaviors. You can say something like “Hi (name), it seems you’re not doing well at all” or “it seems like you’re experiencing a crisis and I am genuinely concerned for you.”
- Provide that holding space by allowing them to take their own time, and express what they are feeling without interruptions, judgments, or offering answers. Just listen. You can say “I am here for you and you are important to me, please share whatever is troubling you.”
- Offer validation and assure them that what they are feeling or saying is valid. You can say “whatever you are feeling right now is valid..it can feel like there’s no solution even when that’s not really the case. I am sure we can figure out other solutions and even if they don’t feel like a perfect fix, it will help you get out of this situation for now so you can explore better solutions later.”
- Signposting them to support people and resources that can help them feel like there is hope and they can be helped.
- Don’t forget to follow up with this person. It’s possible that speaking to you makes them seem to feel better, yet when alone they may experience those difficult thoughts again. Following up, trying to get them to make that call, or offering to take them to a professional for further support can be life-changing for them, perhaps even life-saving.
Are you in crisis? You are not alone. Help is just a call away. Connect with your emergency care or national/local helplines for suicide prevention. http://suicide.org/