Suicide. Not something we hear about or talk about a whole lot. That is until someone famous makes the news for committing suicide or a loved one attempts or commits suicide. And why is that? Well suicide is not a very uplifting topic of conversation, but an important one for us to have.
Suicide is likely more common than you realize. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Every single day there are about 123 suicides. And about twenty five times that number are attempting! That is 3,075 suicide attempts; a suicide attempt every 30 seconds.
Looking at the statistics can leave us feeling powerless. So what can we do? How can we help? The first step is education. Knowing the signs of suicide. Suicide is often preceded by a period of depression. Depression is often characterized by a loss of hope and can lead to people asking the question “if there is no hope, why try?”
Signs of depression:
-Loss of interest in things the person used to enjoy
-Change in appetite
-Change in sleep patterns, either sleeping a lot more or a lot less
-Low self esteem
Warning signs of suicide:
- Talking about death or suicide, 50-75% of individuals who attempt suicide tell someone about it ahead of time
- Talking about feeling hopeless
- Talking abut not having a reason to live
- Talking about feeling like a burden
- Giving away possessions
- Calling or visiting loved ones as a way of saying goodbye
- Sudden relief from severe depression, sometimes the relief comes because they see suicide as an option, as a way out
Maybe as you read through the lists above you thought of someone you care about that has some of the warning signs. You love them and want to support them but you’re not sure how to do that. So what’s the next step?
Ways to support:
1. Let them know that you care
2. Let them know that you are here to listen anytime they need
a. listening to someone is one of the most powerful things you can do for the person because often individuals who are considering suicide feel very alone and when you are able to be there with them and empathize with them, then suddenly they are less alone. Listening can also help you identify warning signs of suicide.
3. Restrict access to ways of self harm including weapons or pills
a. 51% of all suicides are committed by firearm
4. Encourage them to get professional health
a. Mental Health Professionals are trained in assessing for suicide risk. If there is any concern at all, please refer them to a professional.
5. Provide hotline information and encourage them to call.
5. If there is an immediate concern about safety, call 911.
As a final note, often times people don’t want to ask friends or loved one is they are considering suicide because they are afraid that asking about suicide might put the idea in that person’s head. That’s not how it works. If they weren’t considering it before they will not consider just because you asked the question. Likely if you feel like you need to ask, there is a reason, meaning they have already considered this option. Ask the hard questions. Have the hard conversations. By you asking the question, it let’s them know that they can come talk to you about this subject.
- 24 hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
-I am in Charlotte, NC. If you are local and live in either Mecklenburg or Cabarrus County we also have a 24 Hour mobile crisis number and they can come to do a risk assessment on site. That number is: 800-939-5911
Theresa Leskowat MS LPC is Founder and Owner of Clear Vista Counseling. Clear Vista provides mental health counseling for individuals near Uptown Charlotte.