This article might trigger you or make you feel unsettled. Please don’t read further if you feel vulnerable. Seek help, support or resources or call emergency services if you have any thoughts on suicide.
To be aware of suicide, we should know how to address it. Please don’t use the word ‘commit’ as it makes it sound like a crime. In some countries it may be to do so, but for the purpose of mental health and to respect the person in question, please say ‘died by suicide’, ‘chose to take their life’.
Many people ask ‘Why did that person kill himself?” or “She had everything, why was she sad or depressed?” or “They were famous, rich, healthy and beautiful, why did they take their life?”. These are surface observations and we should be thinking about suicide in the following manner:
- They couldn’t live with the pain any longer.
- The feel they are no good to anyone.
- They can’t face their reality or circumstances and ending their life seems to be the only solution.
- Nothing else matters to them right now, they just want to end the turmoil.
- They feel like hope is a thing of the past.
- They want fate to decide if they live or die after their attempt.
- They could have many reasons which led them to this decision, some of which could be: financial, depression, life struggles, stressful events, loss of health, work, pet, previous ideation, loss of family member, friend or partner/spouse.
As a family member, friend or colleague we can help prevent suicide by responding to the various invitations displayed by people with suicidal ideation.
“All of my problems will end soon.”
“No one can do anything to help me now.”
“Now I know what they were going through.”
“I just can’t take it any more.”
“I am a burden to everyone.”
“I can’t do anything right.”
“I just can’t think straight anymore.”
Giving away possessions, withdrawal from family, friends, school, work, loss of interest in sports and leisure, misuse of alcohol and drugs, impulsive or reckless behaviour, self-mutilation and extreme behaviour changes.
Lack of interest in appearance, change/loss in sex interest, disturbed sleep, change/loss of appetite and/or weight, physical health complaints.
Desperate, Angry, Guilty, Worthless, Lonely, Sad, Hopeless and Helpless.
If anyone you know display such invitations, don’t be afraid to call it out. Ask directly, “I noticed so and so behaviour, and I am concerned you might be thinking about suicide?”. Don’t use words like “hurt yourself” which may be unclear. “Self-harm” is different from suicidal thoughts. Normalize the word suicide so people feel they can talk about it. If they reply in the negative, don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. Say “Sorry, I am still worried and am here if you need to talk about anything or share your issues and concerns.”
Once you have responded to their invitation and they are ready to open up about their suicidal ideation, LISTEN. Say: “I see you”, “I hear you”. Hold space for them to express, to remain silent, to cry, vent or be angry or sad. Your EMPATHY will provide a turning point.
HELP THEM UNDERSTAND CHOICES
They may be dealing with feelings of uncertainty or numbing pain. Try and bring them back to the present, and assure them they are okay. Engage them to seek help and change course. Help them imagine a future where they are supported and is something they can look forward to in hope.
DO NOT PROMISE SECRECY
Tell them openly that you will enroll help, either with or without their co-operation, and that you cannot keep this a secret as it is a crisis situation which needs urgent attention and care.
Australia: Lifeline 131114
UAE: Hotline 112, Emergency Services 911
Stay safe, support your loved ones and your community and seek help if you need it.
Now that you have gotten to the end of the article, I would like you to debrief. Say your name out loud, the name of your favourite TV show, what you will have for your next meal and a silly fact about you, i.e. I don’t know how to crack eggs.