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By: Carol Briggs, Clinical Intern

September is suicide prevention month. Suicide doesn’t just impact individuals, its effects stretch to families, schools, and communities. With all of life’s added stressors and traumas, we’ve seen suicide rates rise. We must all play a role in preventing suicide and ending the stigma associated with mental health issues. Courage and willingness to talk openly about mental health will go a long way in increasing awareness, decreasing judgment, and lessening shame.

While some people fear that talking about suicide will lead to a person completing suicide, there is no evidence or research that this is the case. In fact, most people who are having suicidal thoughts feel isolated and alone and having someone to talk to may save their life.

Knowing the signs that someone may be in danger of harming themselves is the first step in being able to prevent it. If you notice the following with loved ones, it’s important to talk with them and seek professional support.

Here are some signs to watch for: (suicidepreventionlifeline.org)

  • Talking about (writing/posting/texting) wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

If these behaviors are new to a person, have increased over time, or follow a loss, change, or traumatic event, it’s time to talk with your loved one about what you’ve noticed. Many people feel nervous and ill-equipped addressing suicidal thoughts with friends or family.

Remember, talking about suicide does not cause suicide. Be direct. You can say, “It seems like you’re having a tough time lately. Sometimes when people are feeling really low, they may have thoughts of how to get rid of those feelings. Are you having any thoughts of ending the pain or thoughts of suicide?”

Listen from a place of non-judgement. Don’t try to argue that it’s wrong or bad. Focus on what the person is feeling, and validate the pain. Don’t try to “fix” them or the situation.

Ask if they have a plan and the means to carry it out. If so, encourage them to reach out for professional help. You can say, “Thank you for sharing this with me. I know it wasn’t easy. I care about you, and I want you to be safe. I’d like to help you figure out how we can stop the pain and keep you safe. How do you feel about talking with a therapist?”

If you believe someone is an immediate danger to themselves, call 911.

Hearing that someone is thinking of taking their life is uncomfortable and terrifying. Try to remain calm, be supportive, and seek out support for yourself.

One of the most useful tools in preventing suicide is to seek professional help for yourself or someone you love. If you’ve experienced a loss, traumatic event, are under increased stress, or if you’re feeling lost, depressed, stuck, or anxious, talking about it helps. You are not alone.  All of us struggle from time to time. The more we talk about it openly, with compassion and care for each other, the less power we give to the idea that it should be hushed and hidden away. Hope is easier to see when we step out of the dark.

Owens & Associates’ clinicians are here to help. Schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation with one of our therapists today! Call (847) 854-4333 for more information!

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) free and confidential 24/7 access.

Text Line- Text HOME or CONNECT to 741741 to chat with a real person 24/7. Free and confidential.