Understanding and Helping the Suicidal Person
Be Aware of the Warning Signs
There is no typical suicide victim. It happens to young and old, rich and poor. Fortunately, there are some common warning signs that, when acted upon, can save lives. Some signs to look for include:
- Talks about committing suicide
- Has trouble eating or sleeping
- Experiences drastic changes in behavior
- Withdraws from friends and/or social activities
- Loses interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.
- Prepare for death by making out a will and final arrangements
- Increases their use of alcohol or drugs
- Gives away prized possessions
- Has attempted suicide before
- Takes unnecessary risks
- Has had recent severe losses
- Is preoccupied with death and dying
- Loses interest in their personal appearance
Be Aware of Feelings
Many people at some time in their lives think about committing suicide. For most, the crisis is temporary. Others perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. Other suicidal people think they can't:
- Stop the pain
- Think clearly
- Make decisions
- See any way out
- Sleep, eat, or work
- Get out of depression
- Make the sadness go away
- See a future without pain
- See themselves as worthwhile
- Get someone's attention
- Seem to get control
What to Do
Here are some ways to help someone who is threatening suicide:
- Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
- Don't dare him or her to do it.
- Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
- Take action. Remove the means.
- Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
- Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available, but do not offer global reassurance.
- Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.