The world was shocked this year after the suicides of fashion designer Kate Spade and television chef Anthony Bourdain. Their deaths have created a greater awareness of the tragic results of suicide.
I think the most common misconception about suicide is that the person had mental health issues such as depression or bipolar disease. The truth is many people who commit suicide do not have a history of mental illness. The CDC states that over 50 percent of suicides occur in people with no history of mental illness. They have experienced a traumatic event, are overwhelmed, or in a state of utter desperation.
Become Aware of Suicide Risk Factors
There are many suicide risk factors including:
- Job loss
- Financial problems
- Chronic pain
- Health issues
- Relationship breakups
- Substance abuse
Know the Warning Signs So You Can Help the People You Love
These are some warning signs that someone you know could be contemplating suicide.
- Saying they want to die or say things like, “Life is just not worth living anymore”
- Telling friends and family “goodbye”
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Withdrawing, isolation, or avoiding others
- Intense mood swings
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness
- Giving prized possessions to loved ones
- Sleeping too much or too little
You Can Help Prevent Suicide
Suicide is sometimes impulsive and other times planned. Your awareness can literally save someone’s life. I know. I was listening to a teen in a lot of pain at a horse show a few years ago. She was feeling desperate, alone, and rejected. I had a really bad feeling about her state of mind. I asked her to go have coffee even though it was 11 pm. We talked until 4 am when she finally told me she had planned to go home after she left me that night to kill herself.
The teen had her suicide planned but wanted to see her horse in the horse show before she killed herself. I drove her home to her parents at 4 am and we took her to a hospital. She got the help she needed and her parents did not leave her side. She is now healthy, happy, and going to school to become a therapist herself.
Please Listen, Be Aware, and Take Action
- Talk to them. Look directly into the other person’s eyes and ask them if they are suicidal. Be still, listen, and affirm their feelings. As in my situation, when they let you know they are suicidal, you can take action and get them the help they need.
- Ask them if they have a plan to harm themselves. Ask them what their plan was. When this happened to me the girl had pills in her purse with her. I asked her for them and she handed them to me. If there is a knife or gun involved take it away if possible. If you don’t feel safe, remove both of you from the environment and get to a safe place.
- Assist them in getting help immediately. You can take them to a local emergency room. If the threat is not eminent you can sit with them and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
- Create a buddy system. Make sure you check up on them. Studies have shown suicide deaths decrease when a loved one consistently checks in with the at-risk person.
- Look after yourself. If you are the one with suicidal thoughts please call a friend, coworker, neighbor or your health care provider. There is no reason to be ashamed. Health professionals are trained to help you. These people care about you and want to help you. If you see a police officer, or anyone else near you, please reach out to them and tell them you are considering harming yourself. They will get you help. It is hard, but pull yourself out of your isolation and pain.
Lastly, these are important links for more information for you and for those you love: