Colleen Carpenter, a Fort Wayne-based Trainer and Consultant on suicide prevention shared with us how we can all help prevent suicide.
Why do some people die by suicide? Often it is a combination of hopelessness and helplessness. People thinking of suicide may feel like they are in situations that have no solutions. Sometimes they feel like they have no control to change their situations. They may see no other way out but ending their lives.
That’s where you come in. Anyone can help prevent suicide. It takes four simple steps.
First, know the warning signs. Here are some warning signs of suicide:
• Talking or writing about suicide or death/dying
• Sleeping or eating too much or too little
• Giving away personal items or making final arrangements such as a will
• Withdrawing from friends or social activities (including social media) or isolating themselves
• Dramatic change in personality, appearance, work, school, or hobbies
• Showing extreme changes in mood or behavior
• Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
• Increasing use of alcohol/ drugs
• Talking about being a burden to others
• Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
• Expressing feelings of hopeless and having no reason to live
• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
• Saying goodbye to friends and family as if for the last time
• Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
• Sudden cheerfulness after a period of depression
Two, treat suicide risk like heart attack risk. If you are even slightly wondering if someone you know is considering suicide, Ask the person directly as soon as possible if they are thinking about suicide. Just be direct, such as, “You’ve talked about feeling stuck in life – are you feeling so stuck that you are thinking about suicide?”. Note: you cannot ‘plant the idea of suicide’ – suicide is either on their mind or it’s not. By you bringing it up, you are actually reducing their suicide risk and increasing their hope that someone cares.
Three, if they say yes (or even if they say no), listen to their feelings. Do not judge or debate their feelings. Let them talk about all the things that are tied to their feelings of ending their life. Tell them you care and want to help. Work with other family/friends to remove things that could increase their risk such as guns and extra medication/pills from their home.
Four, take them to someone who can do a full assessment of how severe things are. If they won’t go you can either call the national suicide hotline (1-800-273-8255) which will do a full assessment and create a safety plan or you can call 911. When you connect them to help, tell them everything you know, in front of the person you’re worried about. Ask your loved one to confirm what you said to be sure the person you’re referring them to knows the full story. Don’t be sworn to secrecy about their suicide thoughts.
For more information on helping someone at risk of suicide, go to: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-someone-else/
Written by: Colleen Carpenter, a Fort Wayne-based Trainer and Consultant on suicide prevention. She facilitates the STOP Suicide Northeast Indiana coalition. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.