Warning signs that someone may be trying to commit suicide
You can't see how someone is feeling inside, so it's not always easy to identify if someone is having suicidal thoughts. However, some outward warning signs that a person may be considering suicide include:
- Talk about feeling hopeless, trapped, or lonely
- Said they had no reason to continue living
- Make a will or give away personal property
- Looking for ways to cause physical harm, such as purchasing a gun
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Eating too little or too much, resulting in significant weight gain or loss
- Engage in reckless behavior, including excessive drinking or drug use
- Avoid social interactions with others
- express anger or seek revenge
- Showing signs of extreme anxiety or agitation
- severe mood swings
- Talk about suicide as a way out
This can be scary, but taking action and getting someone the help they need may help prevent a suicide attempt or death.
How to talk to someone who is suicidal
If you suspect a family member or friend may be considering suicide, talk to them about your concerns. You can start a conversation by asking questions in a non-judgmental and non-confrontational way.
Have an open conversation and don’t be afraid to ask direct questions, such as “Are you thinking about suicide?”
During your conversation, make sure:
- Stay calm and speak in a reassuring tone
- Acknowledge that their feelings are legitimate
- Provide support and encouragement
- Tell them that help is available and that they can feel better through treatment
Make sure not to minimize their problems or try to change their minds by shaming them. Listening and showing your support is the best way to help them. You can also encourage them to seek help from professionals.
Offer to help them find a health care provider, make a phone call, or accompany them to their first appointment.
It can be scary when someone you care about shows signs of suicide. But if you are in a position to assist, taking action is crucial. Starting a conversation to try to help save lives is a risk worth taking.
If you are worried and don't know what to do, you can get help through a crisis or suicide prevention hotline.
When encountering imminent danger
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), if you see someone engaging in any of the following behaviors, they should get treatment immediately:
- sort out their affairs or give away their possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Emotions shift from despair to calmness
- Planning, seeking to buy, steal or borrow tools to commit suicide, such as guns or drugs
If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm:
- Call the emergency number.
- Stay with the person until help arrives.
- Remove any guns, knives, drugs or other items that could cause harm.
- Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.
What increases the risk of suicide?
There is usually no single reason why people decide to end their lives. Several factors increase the risk of suicide, such as having a mental health disorder.
But more than half of people who commit suicide have no known mental illness at the time of death.
Depression is the leading mental health risk factor, but others include bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and personality disorders.
In addition to mental health conditions, other factors that increase the risk of suicide include:
- Poor job security or low job satisfaction
- A history of being abused or witnessing ongoing abuse
- Be diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer or HIV
- Be socially isolated or be a victim of bullying or harassment
- substance use disorder
- Childhood abuse or trauma
- Have a family history of suicide
- previous suicide attempts
- have a chronic disease
- social losses, such as the loss of important relationships
- Access to lethal means, including guns and drugs
- exposed to suicide
- Difficulty asking for help or support
- Lack of access to mental health or substance abuse treatment
- Follow a belief system that accepts suicide as a solution to personal problems
Those who have been shown to be at higher risk of suicide are:
- People over 45 years old
- Caucasian, American Indian, or Alaska Native
Assessing people at risk of suicide
Healthcare providers may be able to determine whether someone is at high risk for suicide based on their symptoms, personal medical history, and family history.
They want to know when symptoms started and how often patients experience symptoms. They will also ask about any past or current medical problems and certain illnesses that may run in the family.
This can help them determine possible explanations for your symptoms and what tests or other professionals may be needed to make a diagnosis. They may assess the person's:
- Mental Health. In many cases, suicidal thoughts are caused by an underlying mental health disorder, such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. If a mental health problem is suspected, the person may be referred to a mental health professional.
- Substance use. Abuse of alcohol or drugs often leads to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. If substance abuse is an underlying problem, an alcohol or drug addiction recovery program may be the first step.
- medical treatement. Use of certain prescription drugs, including antidepressants, may also increase the risk of suicide. Healthcare providers can review any medications the person is currently taking to see if they may be contributing factors.
Treatment of people at risk of suicide
Treatment depends on the underlying cause of someone's suicidal thoughts and behaviors. But in many cases, treatment includes talk therapy and medication.
Talk therapy, also called psychotherapy, is one possible treatment for reducing the risk of suicide attempts. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of talk therapy often used with people who have suicidal thoughts.
The purpose is to teach you how to cope with stressful life events and emotions that may lead to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. CBT can also help you replace negative beliefs with positive ones and regain a sense of satisfaction and control in your life.
A similar technique called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) may also be used.
If talk therapy is not successful enough in reducing risk, medications may be prescribed to relieve symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Treating these symptoms can help reduce or eliminate suicidal thoughts.
One or more of the following medications may be prescribed:
- antipsychotic drugs
- anti-anxiety medications
In addition to talk therapy and medication, sometimes just adopting certain healthy habits can lower your risk of suicide. These include:
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Staying away from alcohol and drugs is critical because these substances lower inhibitions and may increase the risk of suicide.
- Exercise regularly. Exercising at least three times a week, especially outdoors and in moderate sunlight, can also help. Physical activity stimulates the production of certain chemicals in your brain, making you feel happier and more relaxed.
- sleep well. It's also important to get enough quality sleep. Poor sleep can make many mental health symptoms worse. If you have trouble sleeping, talk to your healthcare provider.
How to Prevent Suicidal Thoughts
If you have suicidal thoughts or feelings, don't be ashamed and don't hide it. Although some people have suicidal thoughts without any intention of taking any action, it is still important to take some action.
To help prevent these thoughts from recurring, here are some things you can do.
communicate with someone
You should never try to manage suicidal feelings entirely on your own. Getting professional help and support from loved ones can make it easier to overcome any challenges that are causing these feelings.
There are many organizations and support groups available to help you cope with suicidal thoughts and realize that suicide is not the best way to cope with stressful life events. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great resource.
Take medicine as directed
You should never change your dose or stop taking a medication unless your healthcare provider tells you to do so. If you suddenly stop taking the medication, suicidal thoughts may return and you may experience withdrawal symptoms.
If you are experiencing adverse side effects from a drug you are currently taking, talk with your healthcare provider about switching to another drug.
Never skip an appointment
Other appointments are very important. Adhering to a treatment plan is the best way to deal with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
Pay attention to warning signs
Work with your healthcare provider or therapist to learn about triggers that may trigger suicidal feelings in you. This will help you recognize signs of danger early and decide in advance what actions to take.
It can also help tell family and friends about these warning signs so they know when they may need help.
Eliminate deadly methods of suicide
If you are concerned that you may be having suicidal thoughts, discard any guns, knives, or serious medications.
Today, many organizations and individuals are working to prevent suicide, and there are more resources available than ever before. No one should have to deal with suicidal thoughts alone.
Whether you are concerned about someone's loved one or you are struggling yourself, help is available. Don't stay silent - you might help save a life.
Hong Kong Samaritan Suicide Prevention Association: 2389 2222
Samaritans 24-hour multilingual service: 2896 0000
Lifeline: 2382 0000