Suicide. Even the word can be difficult to say out loud, but it still needs to be talked about. Talking about mental health in general is a pretty sensitive and often uncomfortable subject. When someone brings up the idea of wanting to end their life, it could cause a lot of people to not know how to handle the situation. Below we will discuss the myths, the facts, and how to handle talking about suicide.
Myth 1: Suicide occurs without warning.
More often than not, there are different warning signs that a person may exhibit if they are thinking about suicide. The person may not directly say ‘I am thinking about killing myself’, but they may have communicated that they are distressed. We will go over the key warning signs below.
Myth 2: Talking about suicide will make it more likely for the person to kill themselves.
Actually having an open conversation about suicide may have the complete opposite effect. This may give the person the opportunity to talk openly about things that have been bothering them. They may also feel a lot safer knowing that they have someone they could confide in. We will discuss more on how to navigate that conversation.
Myth 3: We cannot prevent suicide.
With proper knowledge and identification, we can make a difference and help prevent suicide. From knowing the warning signs to being a person someone can confide in, these may help lower the risk of suicide. Most of the time, the person who may be suicidal does not actually want to die. In fact, they most likely want the pain to stop. Being able to identify the warning signs, having the conversation, and knowing the resources that are out there can help prevent suicide.
Facts and Statistics
Below are the some facts and statistics regarding suicide:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for college-aged people
- Every day, approximately 123 people die in America by suicide
- There is 1 suicide for every estimated 25 suicide attempts
- Suicide among males is 4x higher than among females
- Male deaths represent 79% of all US suicides
- Females are more likely than males to have suicidal thoughts
- Medically serious attempts at suicide are 4x more likely among LGBTQ youth than other young people
There are many warning signs portrayed by a person who may be contemplating suicide. Those warning signs can include a shift of behavior, mood, or the way the person speaks.
If a person talks about being a burden, feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain, having no will to live, or wanting to kill themselves, they may be thinking about suicide. Being aware that a friend or family member is talking about these things, may help you figure out how to confront the situation.
A person’s behavior can also show if a person is suicidal or thinking about hurting themselves. Some warning sign behaviors are if the person is increasing their alcohol or drug use, searching on the internet to find a way to kill themselves, acting recklessly, withdrawing from activities they used to enjoy, isolating themselves from friends and family, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, or giving away prized possessions. All of these different behaviors should be taken seriously and confronted.
Lastly, a person’s mood can show warning signs of suicidality. Of course our mood is not always going to be upbeat and positive, but if you notice a sudden shift in someone’s mood this may mean the person is going through something. Some mood warning signs are aggression, anxiety, depression, irritability, or rage.
Being aware of these warning signs can help you figure out whether or not someone you know might be contemplating suicide. The key thing to remember is that if you notice a drastic shift in a person’s mood or behavior, this may be a sign that they are asking for help. Below we will go through what we can do if we notice someone may be suicidal.
What Do I Do?
So how do I talk about this? Since you now know the key warning signs exhibited by someone who may be thinking about suicide, there are different ways you can approach the situation.
One thing you can do is approach the person. Some examples of how to approach someone are:
“Hey I would like to talk to you for a minute, you seem a little down.”
“Is everything okay? I have noticed your haven’t been yourself, can we talk about it?”
“Hey I noticed that you have been down, I care about you and want to let you know that I am here to talk. Do you mind if we talk about this?”
When having this conversation with the person it is important that you are direct. A lot of the time we may ask in a roundabout way if the person is considering to kill or hurt themselves. This may seem beneficial, but it also may show the person that it is not okay to talk about these things. It is much better to directly ask the person “Are you having any thoughts about suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It may be scary to ask someone these questions, but it also shows that you are willing to talk about something that the person may not have had a chance to talk about with anyone else.
Another thing we can do is listen. Too often we may try and give advice or opinions on a specific situation. This could cut off the conversation and not allow the person to really explain the pain they are going through. So don’t try and argue with the person and tell them “you have so much to live for” or that “suicide is selfish.” This may come off as a judgment and can make them feel like they no longer want to talk about this. Allowing the conversation to occur and listening to them without judgment or shock may be cathartic for the person, and it is a positive sign that they are talking about this.
Lastly, when talking to someone about suicide, do not promise secrecy. If a person’s life is at stake you may need to reach out to a professional for help in order to make sure the person is safe. If you promise that you aren’t going to tell anyone, you may have to break your promise.
There are many resources out there in regards to suicide. A great way to support the person if they are hesitant about reaching out for help is telling them, “If you want to call someone for help, I can sit there with you while you make the call.” The thing to keep in mind that if you feel that someone is an imminent danger to themselves, call 9-1-1.
Some resources to keep in mind are:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – They provide 24/7 support, and it is free and confidential. Their phone number is 1-800-273-8255.
The Trevor Project – They provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth. They have a lifeline that is also 24/7. Their phone number is 1-866-488-7386.
Active Minds – This is a non-profit organization whose goals are to change the way we could talk about mental health. They provide education for students and awareness for mental health issues. There are 450+ campus chapters at high schools and colleges nationwide.
QPR Institute – They provide suicide prevention training. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, Refer.