Suicide warning signs- Recognising them early

As much as we all want to prevent suicide, it is not an easy act to stop but it is preventable by staying alert. Here are the warning signs anyone should pay attention to and what to do.

Suicide is Preventable

suicide is preventable
Photo by Thomas Chan on Unsplash

Suicide is not a mental illness in itself like many people simply categorize it. It is a complication of it. It is a serious potential consequence of treatable mental disorders that include major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders like bulimia amongst others.

As serious as suicide is, many people fail to recognize warning signs until the real disaster occurs and at times when a few people notice the signs, they do not heed these warnings. Being alert to warning signs is the only way to prevent it before it happens.

Suicide Warning Signs

Any of the following could be potential warning signs for suicide:

  • Excessive sadness or moodiness: Long-lasting sadness, mood swings, and unexpected rage.
  • Hopelessness: Feeling a deep sense of hopelessness about the future, with little expectation that circumstances can improve.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Sudden calmness: Suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has made a decision to end his or her life.
  • Withdrawal: Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities also are possible symptoms of depression, a leading cause of suicide. This includes the loss of interest or pleasure in activities the person previously enjoyed.
  • Changes in personality and/or appearance: A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behavior, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance.
  • Dangerous or self-harmful behavior: Potentially dangerous behavior, such as reckless driving, engaging in unsafe sex, and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol might indicate that the person no longer values his or her life.
  • Recent trauma or life crisis: A major life crises might trigger a suicide attempt. Crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job, or serious financial problems.
  • Making preparations: Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will, and cleaning up his or her room or home. Some people will write a note before committing suicide. Some will buy a firearm or other means like poison.
  • Threatening or talking about suicide: From 50% to 75% of those considering suicide will give someone either a friend or relative a warning sign. However, not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it. Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.

Those Most Likely at risk?

Suicide rates are highest in teens, young adults, and the elderly. White men over the age of 65 have the highest rate of suicide. Suicide risk also is higher in the following groups:

  • People who have attempted suicide in the past
  • People with a family history of suicide
  • People with a friend or co-worker who committed suicide
  • People with a history of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • People who are unmarried, unskilled, or unemployed
  • People with long-term pain or a disabling or terminal illness
  • People who are prone to violent or impulsive behaviour
  • People who have recently been released from a psychiatric hospitalization (This often is a very frightening period of transition.)
  • People in certain professions, such as police officers and health care providers who work with terminally ill patients
  • People with substance abuse problems
  • People (sometimes even older people) who have lost a spouse through death or divorce. Grief if unattended to can have a bad ending. Those who have been grieving for quite a while are predisposed too if they are unable to get out of their grief. To help read more about Grief And Depression – How To Get better fast

Although women are three times as likely to attempt suicide, men are far more likely to complete the act.

How To Prevent Suicide

Suicide can’t be prevented with certainty, but risks can often be reduced with timely intervention. Research suggests that the best way to prevent suicide is to know the risk factors, be alert to the signs of depression and other mental disorders, recognize the warning signs for suicide, and intervene before the person can complete the process of self-destruction.

What if You Think Someone is Suicidal?

People who receive support from caring friends and family and who have access to mental health services are less likely to act on their suicidal impulses than are those who are socially isolated. If someone you know is exhibiting warning signs for suicide:

  • Don’t be afraid to ask if he or she is depressed or thinking about suicide.
  • Ask if he or she is seeing a therapist or taking medication.
  • Rather than trying to talk the person out of suicide, let him or her know that depression is temporary and treatable.
  • In some cases, the person just needs to know that someone cares and is looking for the chance to talk about his or her feelings. You can then encourage the person to seek professional help.

If You See the Warning Signs of Suicide

If you believe someone you know is in immediate danger of killing himself or herself:

  • Do not leave the person alone. If possible, ask for help from friends or other family members.
  • Ask the person to give you any weapons he or she might have. Take away or remove sharp objects or anything else that the person could use to hurt himself or herself.
  • If the person is already in psychiatric treatment, help him or her to contact the doctor or therapist for guidance and help.
  • Try to keep the person as calm as possible.
  • Call 911 or take the person to an emergency room.
  • Call your local suicide prevention hotline or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMHSA) National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

When To Call 911

If you think that a friend or loved one might be suicidal, you need to take action. Always take suicidal threats seriously. Signs that a person is at risk of committing suicide include:

  • Extreme hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Talking a lot about death or suicide
  • Trying to get access to pills, firearms, or other possible means of suicide
  • Reckless behavior
  • Giving away belongings or saying goodbye
  • Not sleeping, seeming irritable or troubled
  • Using more alcohol and drugs than usual

If you think your friend is at risk, here’s what you can do:

Talk to Your Friend

  • Ask your friend if he or she is thinking about suicide. Be direct. Contrary to what you might assume, you can’t make someone suicidal by asking about it.
  • Try to stay supportive and not judgmental.
  • Ask your friend if he or she has a specific plan in mind. When people have settled on a specific means of committing suicide, they’re at higher risk.

Get Help

  • If you think your friend is in danger, stay with him or her if you can. Don’t leave a suicidal person alone.
  • Call 911, take the person to an emergency room, or contact a crisis hotline like 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Get support from other friends and family members, even if your friend asks you not to. It’s too serious to keep secret and you can’t keep your friend safe all on your own.
  • If your friend has been seeing a mental health professional (therapist, counsellor, psychologist, social worker, or psychiatrist), call them and make them aware of the situation.

Always Remember

Suicidal cases are very delicate yet must be attended to with utmost urgency. Sometimes it might be embarrassing but this should not stop you from taking the needed steps before the disaster occurs. Relatives or friends of one with suicidal tendencies or previous history of attempted suicide must be unrelenting yet entreating in their efforts to assist their loved one emotionally.

Being alert while showing true love, care and support is very important because when it comes to suicide,these are all you need to discern the warning signs before the act. This might be tiring but please always remember, you can save a life if you do not tire out.

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