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Suicide: Signs to recognize, what to do…

We think it will never happen to us.

Yet…

Julie,
Eric,
Victoria,
Ivan,

are people who, just like you and me, are likely to occasionally experience times of crisis and painful moments. When the suffering becomes intolerable, it’s hard to believe that things will get any better.

But it can happen.

Those close to a suicidal person can help by taking action.

Taking action is taking care of oneself.

  • It’s paying attention to our feelings, learning to recognize the signs of our own distress.
  • It’s sharing and talking about what we’re experiencing.
  • It’s doing something nice for ourselves and taking part in things we enjoy.

And when our usual ways of getting through tough times don’t work, let’s not hesitate to ask for help. Our own behaviour influences that of those around us.

 

Taking action is recognizing the signs

Taking action is paying attention

Taking action is also a question of attitude

Taking action is offering your support

Taking action is evaluating the risk

Keeping a secret or being discreet?

Taking action is recognizing the signs

People contemplating suicide may make their intentions clear or be vague with family and friends. Early signs of suicide are calls for help, and it’s important to be able to identify them. This way we can take action in a timely fashion. The following are a few examples:

Direct messages
  • « I want this to end. »
  • « Life’s not worth it. »
  • « I want to die. »
Indirect messages
  • « You’d be better off without me. »
  • « I’m useless. »
  • « I’ve drawn up my will. »
  • « I’m going on a long trip. »
Attitudes and behaviour
  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Major behavioural changes, mood swings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Eating problems
  • Giving away meaningful items
  • Lack of energy or hyperactivity
  • Loss of interest
  • Isolation, withdrawal
  • Excessive drinking, drug or medication use
  • Verbal expressions of discouragement and suffering
  • Getting personal affairs in order
  • Talking about the value and courage of those who commit suicide
  • Loss of sexual appetite
  • Sadness, boredom, indecision, irritability, memory loss
     

Taking action is paying attention

Some signs can be deceiving. A person contemplating suicide does not always appear depressed – he can conceal his sorrow by acting like a clown or acting tough.

The person who concludes that suicide is the only way to end his suffering, and who begins to plan it, may appear relieved, happy, and even euphoric. His attitude may suggest that his crisis is over. We must realize that a sudden good mood can be an early sign of a suicide attempt. When in doubt, the best thing to do is to talk about it openly with the person involved.

Without exception, suicidal individuals always feel overwhelmed by their problems. The way they see it, suicide is the only way to end their suffering.

It’s easier for a suicidal person to confide in someone close whom he trusts (a friend, parent, teacher, professional, etc.).

What he needs is to find someone who can support him, help him face his problems one by one… in a nutshell, someone who can help him to find hope.
 

Taking action is also a question of attitude

The idea that a loved one can be so unhappy as to contemplate suicide is inconceivable and raises a myriad of emotions: disbelief, helplessness, anger, concern…. Sometimes we’d rather deny the situation, and tell ourselves that it’s not that serious, that this will pass. At times, we may even feel that what the other person is experiencing is trivial, whereas to her, the situation is extremely difficult. Let’s try and get beyond our fears and prejudices and take action!
 

Taking action is offering your support

  • Take the person seriously and refrain from making fun of, lecturing or challenging him.
  • Share your concern for him.
  • Listen to him and show that you understand the depth of his suffering.
  • Show your affection.
  • Support the other person as he seeks solutions by respecting your own limits and avoid doing everything for him.
  • Encourage him to seek help and accompany him if need be.
  • Seek information and support for yourself to be in a position to better help the other person.

You may feel incapable of taking action.
If this is the case, make sure someone else can.

Don’t be the only one to help, in any situation.
  

Taking action is evaluating the risk

  • Check to see if the person has considered suicide and, if so, how far has she planned it out (how? where? when?)
  • The more advanced the planning, the more quickly we must react.
     

 Keeping a secret or being discreet?

Keeping this secret that has been entrusted to us runs the risk of limiting potential help and we may end up carrying the responsibility of the other’s well-being all on our shoulders. When not keeping the secret, we must be discreet out of respect for the person who is suffering.

© 2017 JEVI Centre de prévention du suicide - Estrie.