Facts about suicide:
What to do ~ what not to do
BE AWARE OF THE WARNING SIGNS
o Feeling hopeless, saying there is no reason to live
o Loss ~ relationship, work, financial, health
o Person threatens to hurt or kill themselves
o Saying the world would be better off without them or expressing they won’t be around much
o Having made previous attempts
o Person looking for guns, pills or other means to harm themselves.
o Behaving recklessly, not seeming to care about consequences
o Increased use of alcohol or drug
o Social isolation, withdrawing from friends and family
o Dramatic mood changes
o Giving away prized possessions and things that mean a lot to them
KNOW THE FACTS
Suicide is preventable. Most people who say they want to die just want the pain to go away but are unable to see an alternative solution to their problem.
o Most people who contemplate suicide give warnings, but others are either unaware of the
significance of these warnings or do not know how to respond to them.
o Talking to someone about suicide will not cause them to become suicidal. It may actually have
the opposite effect by helping the person feel “less crazy” and alone and makes it safe for them
to talk about their thoughts
o Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24.
o The suicide rate is highest among the elderly (over 65) than any other age group
o Males are four times more likely to kill themselves than females but females are three times
more likely to make an attempt.
o Suicide occurs in all communities regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, or social economic
o Suicide can have a devastating impact on family members and friends who may themselves
experience serious emotional problems as a consequence.
THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS AROUND SUICIDE
It is not uncommon for people to think about suicide at some point in his/here life. Most do not make an attempt, knowing that things will get better ~ they find a reason to live. Those who experience an emotional crisis or have experienced long term depression, however, may feel there is no way out. They may experience any or all of the following:
o Feeling as if life is out of control
o Feelings of hopelessness are overwhelming
o Difficulty sleeping or eating
o Not being able to think clearly
o Having difficulty making even simple decisions
o Feeling incapable of making the sadness go away
o Not finding pleasure in things that brought great pleasure before
o Not feeling like they are worthwhile
o Constant crying
o Feelings of desperation
HOW TO HELP SOMEONE WHO MAY BE CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE
o Be familiar with the warning signs
o Be supportive and open. Do not sit in judgment and do not lecture, do not tell them how bad
this is, or how guilty they will make others feel.
o Don’t be afraid to say this makes you scared. You care for them so this is a normal and honest
response but assure them that they are not alone and together you will find help.
o If you suspect someone is suicidal, be willing to ask if he/she is thinking about suicide ~ this
may not be easy but better to be uncomfortable than regret not having asked the question.
o If they say yes, ask if they have a plan and a means to carry it out.
o If person is surprised or upset you asked, let them know you were concerned and wanted to
know if they are ok or know how to get help.
o Do not leave them alone while you get help, even for a moment.
o Have emergency contact information with you at all times, in your wallet or purse.
o Don’t try to solve the problem on your own and help them seek the services of a professional who is trained to handle difficult situations but don’t underestimate the power of support.
o Don’t promise to keep this secret ~ this one can be deadly
o Don’t dismiss an attempt as just that person’s way of getting attention – emotionally healthy
people don’t make idle threats
o Knowing someone who makes repeated attempts can be emotionally draining for a friend or
family member which is another reason to make sure they seek professional help.
THINGS NOT TO SAY OR DO
o Don't sit in judgment and make them feel ashamed, weak, or bad.
o Sometimes we may say the wrong thing even though our intent Respect their pain but also
clarify how serious the threat is. Sometimes the person themselves may not know. is good.
We may try to make the person feel better by minimizing the problem and say things like "It's
not that bad”, "Don't worry, it'll go away" . This may make you feel safer but it only confirms
their fears that others don’t understand or their problems are too serious to talk about.
o Don’t focus on yourself “Oh I know just how you feel” or “I know someone else who
thought about suicide”. You may or may not know how they are feeling and this is the time to
focus on their feelings and concerns.
o Instead say "I wish it didn't hurt so much. It must be difficult but you are not alone".
o Don't assume they are saying this just to get attention and blow them off. If someone says
they want to die take them at their word. Respect their pain but also clarify how serious the
threat is. Sometimes the person themselves may not know.
o You may let them know that "Often people say they want to die when they just want the pain
to go away. Is that what you want...just for the pain to go away". They may be surprised
themselves that this is what they want, they really didn't want to die. If they are serious follow
the tips presented below.
o Let the person know you take them at their word so if the person knows they don't want to
make a suicide attempt, help them find appropriate language. Instead of saying "This is so bad
I really want to die" They can find alternative language that lets both of you know they are in
pain but they are not contemplating suicide. Instead they may say "this really stinks and I just I
didn't have to see them again."
REMEMBER: The risk of suicide may be greatest as the person's depression begins to lift.
3. Don't Be Afraid to Ask: "Do You Feel So Badly You Are Thinking About Suicide?"
It isn't unusual for people to think about suicide at some point in their life. The person can know they are not alone, they aren't "bad" or "weak". By listening and observing the "warning signs" of suicide and asking direct questions, we make it safe to talk about difficult situations. It lets the person know that while painful, their crisis can be dealt with, that while we may not have all the answers, an answer can be found and they are not alone.
4. If the Answer is "Yes," Take the Person's Response Seriously and Continue the "Suicide Risk" Assessment Questions:
o "Do you have a plan to take your own life?" or "Have you thought of how you would do it?"
o "Do you have the means or materials available to act out your plan?" If so, "What/where are
o "Have you set a time?" or "Have you decided when you would do it?"
If the answer is still "Yes," ask:
o "Have you ever attempted suicide before?"
o "What happened then?"
If the person has a definite plan, the means are available and the time is set and immediate, you should consider the person to be high risk for suicide.
5. Do Not Leave a Person Whom You Feel is "High Risk" For Suicide Alone, Even For a Moment
If a person has expressed suicidal feelings, has a plan, the means available and has a time set, you should always take him or her seriously. If there is any doubt, take him or her seriously. A person who is "high risk" for suicide should not be left alone. Keep talking to that person, stay with him or her or arrange for another party (someone who that person trusts and feels comfortable with) to stay with them.
Most people can be helped in getting through their moment of crisis if they have someone who will spend time with them, listen, take them seriously and help them talk about their thoughts and feelings. Almost every suicidal crisis has at its center a strong ambivalence: "I can't handle the pain anymore," but not necessarily, "I want to be dead forever!" What most suicidal people want is not to be dead but some way to get through the terrible pain they are experiencing and someone they can turn to during those terrible moments of fear and desperation.
At Samaritans we say, "You don't save the life of a person who is feeling suicidal, you help him or her get through the moment."
6. If the Person in Crisis Has Taken Some Form of "Life-Threatening" Action, Get Help Immediately
If a person has taken any action that you believe could be considered life-threatening, don't hesitate to get that person to a hospital yourself (if practical)or call an ambulance or emergency services.
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE 1-800-273-8255