Suicide, or ending one's own life is a tragic event with strong emotional repercussions for its survivors and for families of its victims.
As the world celebrates World Suicide Prevention Day, we bring to you vital facts about suicide and how to be of help.
A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn't mean that help isn't wanted. People who take their lives don't want to die, they just want to stop been hurt.
Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject. But talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life.
HAPPY WORLD SUICIDE DAY FROM JUSTASKNURSE!
WHAT IS SUICIDE?
Suicide is the act of killing yourself, most often as a result of depression or other mental illness. The effects of suicide go beyond the person who acts to take his or her life, it can have a lasting effect on family, friends, and communities.
RISK FACTORS OF SUICIDE
▶Previous history of suicide attempt
▶Depression and other mental health disorders
▶Substance abuse disorder
▶Family history of a mental illness or substance abuse disorder
▶Family history of suicide
▶Family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
▶Having guns or other harmful instruments at home
▶Being in prison or jail
▶Being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior, such as a family member, peer, or media figure
▶Serious medical illness
▶Being between the ages of 15 and 24 years or over age 60
▶Recent death of a loved one, isolation and loneliness
▶Physical illness, disability, or unbearable pain
▶Major life changes, such as retirement or loss of independence
▶Loss of sense of purpose
Level of Suicide Risk
✔Low – Some suicidal thoughts. No suicide plan. Says he or she won't attempt suicide.
✔Moderate – Suicidal thoughts. Vague plan that isn't very lethal. Says he or she won't attempt suicide.
✔High – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she won't attempt suicide.
✔Severe – Suicidal thoughts. Specific plan that is highly lethal. Says he or she will attempt suicide.
WARNING SIGNS OF SUICIDE
The listed below behaviours may be signs that someone is thinking about suicide.
◼Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
◼Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
◼Planning or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or newly acquiring potentially lethal items (e.g., firearms, ropes)
◼Talking about great guilt or shame
◼Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
◼Feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
◼Talking about being a burden to others
◼Using alcohol or drugs more often
◼Acting anxious or agitated
◼Withdrawing from family and friends
◼Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
◼Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
◼Taking risks that could lead to death, such as reckless driving
◼Talking or thinking about death often
◼Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
◼Giving away important possessions
◼Saying goodbye to friends and family
◼Putting affairs in order, making a will
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT SUCIDE
✴ Myth: People who talk about suicide won't really do it.
Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore even indirect references to death or suicide. Statements like "You'll be sorry when I'm gone," "I can't see any way out,"no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
✴Myth: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.
Fact: Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.
✴Myth: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them.
Fact: Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.
✴Myth: People who die by suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.
Fact: Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.
✴Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: You don't give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
Source: SAVE - Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
PREVENTION OF SUCIDE
Tip 1: Speak up if you’re worried
If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you’re wrong? What if the person gets angry?
In such situations, it's natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help, the sooner the better.
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you're unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.
You can't make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
✴"I have been feeling concerned about you lately."
✴"Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing."
✴"I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately."
Questions you can ask:
✴"When did you begin feeling like this?"
✴"Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?"
✴"How can I best support you right now?"
✴"Have you thought about getting help?"
What you can say that helps:
✴"You are not alone in this. I’m here for you."
✴"You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change."
✴"I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help."
✴"When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage."
✴When talking to a suicidal person
DO'S AND DON'TS WHILE TALKING WITH A SUICIDAL SUSPECT
✴Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that he /she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
✴Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, vent anger. No matter how negative the conversation may be, the fact that it exists is a positive sign of suicide.
✴Be sympathetic, non- judgmental, patient, calm, and accepting.
✴Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
✴Take the person seriously. If the person says things like, “I’ m so depressed, I can’t go on” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you .
✴Argue with the suicidal person: Avoid saying things like: " You have so much to live for, " "Your suicide will hurt your family ," or “ Look on the bright side."
✴Act shocked: lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
✴Promise confidentiality: Refuse to be sworn in confidentiality. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
✴Offer ways to fix their problems , or give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it's hurting your friend or loved one.
✴Blame yourself: You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility (Metanoia.org).
Tip 2: Respond quickly in a crisis
If a friend or family member tells you that he or she is thinking about death or suicide, it's important to evaluate the immediate danger the person is in.
Those at the highest risk for suicide in the near future have a specific suicide PLAN, the MEANS to carry out the plan, a TIME SET for doing it, and an INTENTION to do it.
The following questions can help you assess the immediate risk for suicide:
✴Do you have a suicide plan? (PLAN)
✴Do you have what you need to carry out your plan (pills, gun, etc.)? (MEANS)
✴Do you know when you would do it? (TIME SET)
✴Do you intend to take your own life? (INTENTION)
Tip 3: Offer help and support
If a friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care.
Don't take responsibility, however, for making your loved one well. You can offer support, but you can't get better for a suicidal person. He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery.
It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one dealing with thoughts about ending his or her own life can stir up many difficult emotions. As you're helping a suicidal person, don't forget to take care of yourself.
Find someone that you trust like a friend, family member, clergyman, or counselor to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.
To help a suicidal person:
✴Get professional help. Do everything in your power to get a suicidal person the help he or she needs. Call a crisis line for advice and referrals. Encourage the person to see a mental health professional, help locate a treatment facility, or take them to appreciate facility.
✴Follow-up on treatment. If the care provider prescribes medication, make sure your friend or loved one takes it as directed. Be aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. It often takes time and persistence to find the medication or therapy that’s right for a particular person.
✴Be proactive. Those contemplating suicide often don't believe they can be helped, so you may have to be more proactive at offering assistance.
Saying, “Call me if you need anything” is too vague. Don’t wait for the person to call you or even to return your calls. Drop by, call again, invite the person out.
✴Encourage positive lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes each day. Exercise is also extremely important as it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.
✴Make a safety plan. Help the person develop a set of steps he or she promises to follow during a suicidal crisis. It should identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Also include contact numbers for the person's therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
✴Remove potential means of suicide, such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If the person is likely to take an overdose, keep medications locked away or give out only as the person needs them.
✴Continue your support. Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by. Your support is vital to ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track.
Written By: Abubakar Bukola, RN
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