Suicide Prevention Month: Don’t be afraid to act
Asking questions can feel awkward but, if asking two simple questions could help save a person’s life, would you do it? Suicide is complex and cannot be defined by one single cause; however, knowing the warning signs and asking the right questions could help those in your life who are struggling. Pay attention to changes in conversation, behavior, and mood as there are associated warning signs that could increase the chance that an individual may try to take their own life.
1-Talk: If someone you know or love begins talking about feeling trapped, it’s important to note that they may be talking about more than being stationed on a small island in the Pacific. In fact, conversations revolving around feeling trapped, hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, and wanting to die are all risk factors that increase the chance that the individual may try to take their life. It’s important to let them know that you care by saying “I’m here for you” and to remain judgement free in both body language and in verbal conversation.
2-Behavior: If someone you know just gave away a prized possession there may be more going on behind closed doors than sheer generosity. Actions like an increased use of alcohol or drugs, searching for a way to end their lives, withdrawing from activities, isolating from friends and family, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, aggression, fatigue, and giving away prized possessions are all things that may signal a risk for an increased chance of suicide. Pay attention to the behavioral risk factors of suicide and of the behaviors of those you know and love.
3-Mood: It’s okay to have a bad day but at what point does it begin to signal a deeper turmoil? Individuals who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods: depression, anxiety, loss of interest, shame, irritability, sudden improvement, and anger. Keeping these warning signs in mind, take a mental note of the mood(s) of those around you. It’s also important to recognize that some individuals contemplating suicide may never outwardly express changes in mood, conversation, or behavior and, thus, show no risk factors at all due to the pressure to put on a ‘front’ or ‘act’ for others. Even the strongest person could be struggling so always remember to take the time to be there for your friends, family, and peers.
When you know the risk factors for suicide, you are better equipped to help those in need. If someone you know is exhibiting one or more of the warning signs/risk factors listed above don’t be afraid to act – it could save a life. Remember ACE- Ask, Care, Escort. Asking questions will not drive someone to suicide but, instead, it will give them a chance to open up about how they are feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions: “Are you thinking of hurting yourself” or “Are you thinking of taking your own life?” If their answers cause concern, remember to show them that you care by letting them know that you are here for them and by escorting them to the nearest mental health facility. Help seeking is a sign of strength and getting help when needed could actually enhance your loved one’s life and career.
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