How to prevent suicide: Warning signs and what to do
September is National Suicide Prevention Month and while it is a time to raise awareness about suicide and mental health, it is also important to know how to prevent suicide. A study conducted by the University of Houston’s Culture, Risk and Resilience Lab found that over the last decade, suicide rates in the United States have increased dramatically among racial and ethnic minorities, and Black Americans in particular. Suicide deaths occur across the lifespan and have increased for Black youth, but the highest rate of death is among Black Americans aged 25-34 years of age. It is important to be able to recognize the warning signs of suicide, as this can help save a person's life. If you know someone who is suicidal, there are certain things you can do to help them. Getting professional help is also vital in suicide prevention.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jessica Jean Baptiste explains that there are several warning signs that may indicate that someone is considering suicide. These include talking about wanting to die, feeling like a burden to others, feeling helpless and hopeless and talking about feeling purposeless or trapped. You also want to monitor if someone you know is displaying the following behaviors; discussing or making plans to die, giving away possessions, increase in use of drugs or alcohol, engaging in risky behaviors, isolating from friends and family and talking, writing, making social media posts about suicide and death. If you know someone who is displaying any of the warning signs of suicide, it is important to talk to them about it. You should express your concern and let them know that you are there for them. It is also important to encourage them to seek professional help. Dr. Jean Baptiste also offers the following advice for how you can offer support to help someone exhibiting the aforementioned behaviors.
Approach with compassion and offer to listen, try not to immediately offer advice.
Pay attention to what they are sharing with you and if they are saying things like: “I wish it would all end,” “I am a burden,” “Everyone would be better off without me” Dr. Jean Baptiste states that you should follow up with clarifying questions because sometimes it is best to be direct. Questions include: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?,” “Have you thought of a plan of how you would end your life?,” “Have you thought of when you would end your life?” It is good to inquire about these things because it allows the person to share more information with you.
If they express that they are actively suicidal, it is important to act promptly
Encourage them to reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or call/text 988. If needed, call 911 or your local emergency number. If you are in-person, you may ask to take them to an emergency room or encourage them to go. Stay with them or on the phone until help arrives. If possible, remove any weapons or substances from their surroundings that could cause harm.
Even if the threat of suicide does not seem imminent, it should still be taken seriously.
Dr. Jean Baptiste encourages to seek professional support. If they already have a mental health provider, encourage them to contact their provider. If they do not have a mental health provider, you can help them find resources in their community. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones. You can call them at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with them online at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. There are also many other organizations that provide support such as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Crisis Text Line, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These organizations can provide you with resources, support groups, and crisis counseling.
Involve others, do not keep it a secret
When someone is suicidal, it's important to involve others in their care and recovery. This might include family, friends, clergy, or mental health professionals. Suicidal individuals often feel isolated and alone, so involving others can be helpful in breaking down those feelings of isolation. It's also important to make sure that the person has a support system in place, so they know they're not alone and have people to turn to in times of need.
Get Support for Everyone Involved
Supporting someone with suicidal thoughts can be distressing. It is also important to get support for yourself, friends and family who may be affected. Talking to someone who understands what you are going through can be very helpful. You can find support groups for people who have been affected by suicide, as well as mental health professionals who can help you deal with your feelings.
Suicide is a serious problem that should not be taken lightly. If you know someone who is considering suicide, it is important to talk to them and encourage them to seek professional help.
National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline
Call or text 988
Chat at 988lifeline.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line (HELLO to 741741)
SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Helpline 800-662-HELP (4357) TTY: 800-487-4889
Rudd, M. D., Berman, A. L., Joiner, T. E., Jr., Nock, M. K., Silverman, M. M., Mandrusiak, M.,et al. (2006). Warning signs for suicide: Theory, research, and clinical applications. Suicide and
Life-Threatening Behavior, 36(3), 255-262.