Suicide Is a Real Threat and Needs to Be Talked About
Very few people are comfortable talking about suicide whether they feel like harming themselves, are concerned that a loved one may be considering self-harm, or lost someone to suicide. It is a silent epidemic. This country loses over 100 people to suicide every day. It is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-34 and the fourth leading cause of death among people age 35-54. It does not discriminate. Suicide is the third leading cause of premature death among attorneys (after cancer and heart disease); 54% more likely than general population.
Silence is not the answer. Mentioning suicide does not increase the likelihood that someone will consider suicide for the first time. You’re much more likely to help someone feel less alone if they were considering it. There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about suicide. Here is some basic information. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one, please reach out. You may save a life. You may save your own life.
The number one myth is that asking someone about suicide or talking about it will “put the idea into the person’s head,” and cause them to become suicidal. This is NOT true. A person who is contemplating suicide has been considering it for some time before you mentioned it and they can feel a sense of relief when a concerned person asks them about it from a place of caring.
Here are some questions to think about related to suicide:
- Is a person always suicidal if they have been suicidal before?
- If a person talks about suicide, they don’t really mean it, right?
- Does a person have to be mentally ill to consider suicide?
- Does talking about suicide encourage someone to commit suicide?
- Does a person commit suicide with no warning signs?
Ask yourself these questions and then click the link to check your answers. You may be surprised. https://www.who.int/mental_health/suicide-prevention/myths.pdf
How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal
If you are concerned about a peer, friend, family member, or colleague having suicidal thoughts, here are some tips to consider. (see ALGEE action steps at MentalHealthFirstAid.org)
- ASSESS for risk of suicide or harm: The best way to find out if someone is considering suicide and determining the urgency of the situation is to ask them:
- Are you having thoughts of suicide?
- Do you have a plan to kill yourself (if they have a plan and are ready to carry out that plan, call 911 immediately)?
- Have you decided when you’d do it?
- Do you have everything you need to carry out your plan?
- Note: Not having a plan doesn’t mean they’re not in danger. All thoughts of suicide must be treated seriously. If you think the person is in danger, do not leave the person alone. If you can’t stay, find someone who can until help arrives.
- LISTEN, nonjudgmentally: If the person does not appear to be in a crisis, encourage them to talk about what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling. It is important that you are accepting of what they’re saying, acknowledge it, and have empathy.
- GIVE reassurance and information: Reassurance and hope are crucial. Clearly state that suicidal thoughts common, do not have to be acted upon and are often associated with a treatable mental illness for which treatment is available.
- ENCOURAGE appropriate professional help: If you are concerned for the person’s immediate safety, call 911. For non-crisis intervention, there is also the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK. Remind them that recovery is possible with treatment.
- ENCOURAGE self-help and other support strategies: Ask the person to think about what has helped them in the past (e.g., therapist, family member, friend, spiritual leader, organization). They should tap into their support system as much as possible.
REMEMBER: These steps don’t have to necessarily go in order. Apply them in whichever way makes sense for you and the person you’re addressing.
- Person in Crisis: 911
- Mental Health First Aid: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/2018/12/how-to-help-someone-who-is-suicidal/
- VJLAP’s 24/7 Helpline: 1-877-545-4682
- National Suicide Prevention: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/; 1-800-273-TALK; or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone or send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder. You can also start a confidential online chat session at net/get-help/chat.
** The contents of this article are not intended for the purpose of diagnostic or medical/psychological care. Consultation with a medical or mental health professional is recommended if you are concerned about your well-being.