Suicide warning signs and suicide prevention tips – by Laurette Lipman, MA, LLPC, NCC of Embracing Life Counseling, LLC and Oakland County Moms.
Suicide is usually a difficult subject for most people to talk about. The last thing a parent wants to think about, is their child contemplating suicide. However, suicide is common and is very necessary to talk about. Over 5 million people now living have attempted suicide. Not talking about suicide is part of the problem and sadly, each year 2000 young people (15-24) commit suicide which is the 3rd leading cause of death for that age group.
Suicide Prevention Tips
Suicide Prevention Tips – Warning Signs of Suicide
- Change in behavior – People who commit suicide often give some warning of their intent to harm themselves. Sometimes these are verbal statements and sometimes they can be behavior.
- Isolating from and avoiding others and/or withdrawal from activities that they were previously involved in
- Deterioration in work or school performance, or deterioration in activities of daily living
- Increased hostility, negativity, or defensiveness toward others
- Disinterest or avoidance of making future plans, neglecting responsibilities
- Talking about suicide – Approximately 80% of those who complete suicide spoke to someone before taking their own lives.
- Direct or oblique references to when they will be dead, including joking about dying
- Self-demeaning statements (e.g., “I am no good;” “I’d be better off dead”)
- Preoccupation with death in talk, writing, or other activities (e.g., movies & books)
- Discussing one’s life as if it were over
- Finding books on methods for committing suicide and/or obtaining materials (e.g., gun, poison, rope, pills) that could be used for suicide
- Increased use of drugs/alcohol, gambling, food, sex, etc., as if they are desperately trying to lose themselves in these activities
- Preoccupation with the negativity and tragedy in the world
- Openly expressing hopelessness about their situation and their future
- Making final arrangements, preparing a will, making amends, giving away prized possessions
- Inexplicable sudden attitude change from one of sadness or negativity to one of calmness and certainty – This change is often due to the individual coming to terms with their decision and they have now made a plan to commit suicide. They are very high risk.
Suicide Prevention Tips
- Be calm and supportive – A calm demeanor will help to de escalate the crisis and lower the emotional intensity of the child or adolescent.
- Talk about suicide – Research shows that talking about suicide actually decreases risk among depressed and suicidal adolescents. Asking about suicide opens the door for the person to disclose his or her feelings. Note: Suicide should NEVER be discussed in a joking manner.
- Understand that even the most depressed person has ambivalent feelings about suicide. Most people don’t want to die; they want their pain to end. In the moment, they cannot see alternatives to suicide that will bring their suffering to an end.
- Show them there is hope – Share a personal story of a low point and how that changed, help them think of future goals, and help them understand that everything is temporary.
- Take them seriously – All suicide attempts should be taken seriously. Better to err on the side of safety. The fact that an individual may use threats of self harm to gain attention is in itself enough to warrant attention.
- Be non-judgmental – The hopelessness or stress that the young person feels should be validated as feeling very real to the person and never dismissed or minimized. Listen and make sure the person feels heard.
- Acknowledge the reality of suicide as a choice, but help the young person to know that although suicide is one possible outcome, there are many other, better choices.
- Make decisions – This might mean a referral to a therapist for counseling if you think they are lower risk or even a commitment to a hospital if higher risk.
- Have the Suicide Prevention Tips hotline be known and available – 1-800-273-8255
ABOUT LAURETTE LIPMAN, MA, LLPC, NCC
Laurette Lipman, MA, LLPC, NCC has over 2 years experience as a mental health therapist, and as a graduate of Oakland University, she is currently under supervision of a fully licensed professional counselor.
See related posts below or our HEALTH/BEHAVIORAL HEALTH tab for more columns by Laurette Lipman or to learn more about Embracing Life Counseling
For more Suicide Prevention Tips, contact Laurette Lipman at Embracing Life Counseling