Warning Signs of Suicide
Pain isn't always obvious and during a time when many of us are feeling increased anxiety and stress, it may be harder to recognize when someone is having thoughts of suicide. Professional training isn't necessary to learn to recognize warning signs of suicide and how to help yourself or someone you are concerned about.
The Know the Signs website About Us | Know the Signs (suicideispreventable.org) is a great place to start. Trust your instincts – if your gut tells you something is wrong, reach out with compassion and a willingness to listen.
If you are thinking about suicide or are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
Warning Signs of Suicide:
Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves. For example: Saying or posting direct statements about wanting to die or making a suicide plan, such as: "It won't matter anyway," "there's no point," or “I just don't think it will get better."
Talking or sharing posts about obtaining means for self-harm like searching online or buying a gun.
Talking or posting about feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, or feeling trapped.
Isolating or withdrawing through lack of effort to stay connected. For example: not responding to calls, emails, or other efforts to communicate; or a person who is usually active on social media going silent.
Acting anxious, agitated, or consumed by anger. For example: showing differences in tone, style, length, or content of posts or emails; sounding consumed by or obsessed with anger or frustration.
Behaving recklessly or without regard for self or others.
Sleeping too little or too much.
Extreme mood swings. For example: on a call or video chat, their voice sounds unusually flat, low in energy, or conversely, much brighter than usual.
Changes in substance use such as frequent intoxication or impairment; the person is preoccupied with drinking or using; engaging in risky or violent behaviors when using; or substance use is substantially interfering with daily life.
What do you do if you notice warnings signs?
Reach out to them in any safe way possible. Keep trying to get their attention and let them know you are concerned.
Ask them directly: "Are you thinking about hurting yourself?" Asking a person about suicide is the best way to communicate your concern and that you want to help. Asking directly about suicide will not “plant” the idea – it’s the only way to know if someone is having thoughts of suicide, and then to identify with them how best you can help.
If they answer "yes," encourage them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 988. You can also call the Lifeline yourself for advice.
Practice active listening. Resist the urge to talk people out of their pain or try to fix their problems. Give them the space to open up and talk about their feelings and worries. Make statements or sounds to confirm that you are listening.
If you know or suspect that someone has already harmed themselves and needs medical attention, call 911.
To learn more, visit www.SuicideIsPreventable.org. In general, warning signs are even more important to pay attention to if you notice more than one, and/or if they are new, increased, or seem related to a painful event or loss.
COVID-19 is causing a great deal of uncertainty and stress, making it even more important to check in with one another and to take warning signs seriously. Warning signs can be recognized through phone or video calls, social media posts, or emails. It might not be easy to differentiate between mood changes that are the result of COVID-19 and the signs that signal severe emotional distress.
Sometimes the best way to identify what steps to take is to ask the person what they think will help keep them safe. You can find reassurance in the knowledge that most suicidal crisis last for a brief period of time. Therefore, staying connected with the person (as long as it is safe) and connecting them to resources and ongoing support when the situation has calmed down might be the most effective course of action. You can help create a safety plan by using the “My 3” App. This will help them identify coping strategies and crisis resources to stay safe moving forward. For more tips on how to know the signs, find the words and how to reach out visit www.SuicideIsPreventable.org
For another perspective please read and share the EMM Blog: Supporting Someone While They Find Their Reasons for Living: https://www.eachmindmatters.org/covid19/supporting-someone-while-they-find-their-reasons-for-living/
You are not alone. If you are thinking about suicide or are concerned about someone else, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Skilled and trained counselors are available 24/7 to talk, answer questions, and help you navigate this challenging situation. You are not alone, and help is a phone call or chat away.
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