September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and our community comes together to promote suicide prevention awareness. Understanding and discussing issues surrounding suicide is an important way to help in prevention efforts and help those who struggle with mental health concerns. Suicide is not something that is easy to talk about, but if we know more about suicide, we can be available to recognize the signs and be able to guide people toward finding the help they need.
The Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers the following risk factors that make it more likely that someone will consider, attempt, or complete suicide. These are not foul-proof characteristics, but rather important factors to be aware of:
Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders, and certain personality disorders
Alcohol and other substance use disorders
Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
History of trauma or abuse
Major physical illnesses
Previous suicide attempt(s)
Family history of suicide
Job or financial loss
Loss of relationship(s)
Easy access to lethal means
Local clusters of suicide
Lack of social support and sense of isolation
Stigma associated with asking for help
Lack of healthcare, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)
The following are some warning signs that might help you determine if a loved one is at risk for suicide. If you or someone you know exhibits any of these signs, seek help from a mental health professional and/or call the Lifeline (1-800-273-8255).
Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
Talking about being a burden to others
Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
Sleeping too little or too much
Withdrawing or isolating themselves
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Extreme mood swings
How do you start a conversation with a loved one you might be concerned about? This might feel scary, especially if it is unknown territory to you. It could also be uncomfortable when you are unsure of how the person might react. Research shows, however, that people who have thoughts of suicide actually feel relief when someone asks them in a caring way. If you feel concern, you most likely care deeply about the well-being of this person. Use that compassion to reach out.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has created the #BeThe1To movement to help spread the word about how we can all take action and make an impact in someone’s life.
The first step is to Ask – When you ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?” the question conveys the message that you care, and that you are open to having a conversation about it and want to help. It is important to be direct such that you can determine what the next steps need to be. Be open to listening to their pain and mindful of rushing in with reasons they can “get over it.” While coming from a good place, we might be unintentionally disregarding our loved one’s emotional pain instead of acknowledging it.
The second step is to Keep Them Safe. If you have determined that your loved one is in imminent danger, it is important to establish immediate safety. If there is a previous attempt, a specific plan, thoughts of timing, access to a planned method, it is important to take extra steps. In cases of immediate plan and access to carry out this plan, you might need to call the authorities or drive them to the emergency room. Calling them Lifeline for guidance regarding necessary steps is always an option as well.
The third step is to Be There. When you are able to connect with a loved one who is having thoughts of suicide, you are limiting isolation. This may mean physical proximity, and it can also just be a phone call. Just letting someone know you are there for them is a helpful and protective factor. It is important that you follow through so be aware of making a commitment or a promise that you might not be able to keep. You do not need to be the only source of support for someone who has thoughts of suicide. Help your loved one think of other people in their support network that might also be able to be there for them when needed.
This brings us to the fourth step of Help Them Connect. In moments of crisis, it is helpful for your loved one to have access to the Lifeline and/or other mental health resources in their community. It is important to help someone at risk create a network of resources and individuals because they can help them take action and reduce their feelings of hopelessness. Is it an option for them to see a mental health professional? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help?
The last step is to Follow Up. Once you have started a conversation with a loved one around the topic of suicide, have done the best you were able to in helping ensure their safety, have been present with them in their pain, and have helped connect them to additional support systems, make sure you follow up to see how they are doing. Reaching out via a phone call or a text lets your loved one know that you love, care, and support them.
If you need help for yourself or someone you love, you can call the following numbers for help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
NAMI HelpLine: 1-800-950-6264
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, ext. 1
Mental Health America (for area-specific referrals): 1-800-969-6642
Postpartum Support International (for general information, not crisis intervention): 1-800-994-4773
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
In case of an emergency, when you or someone is in immediate danger or has already attempted suicide, call 911.
If you or a loved one is suffering, our Orlando therapists are available to talk about these thoughts and feelings and help you in your process of healing. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. If you have lost someone to suicide and your feelings are overwhelming, we can help you manage these feelings and help with ways to cope with your grief. Please call us anytime at 407-355-7378 to schedule a free phone consultation.