Suicide is a word that evokes strong feelings in many people - anger, fear, guilt, and confusion. Official statistics show that approximately 30,000 Americans kill themselves every year. In the United States, one person commits suicide every 17 minutes. It's estimated that over 4.5 million people in the United States have been directly affected by a suicide. These deaths cut across all age, economic, social and ethnic boundaries.
Suicide has a long history of being taboo and not being talked about openly. People often get uncomfortable talking about suicide. There is a stigma surrounding suicide and many people who think about or consider suicide avoid talking about it for fear that others will think that they are crazy, which is untrue. Understanding the facts about suicide and knowing how to respond to suicidal feelings can make a difference.
Many people have considered suicide, however fleetingly, at one time or another. There is no reason to fear talking about suicide with someone for fear of "giving him or her the idea." In fact, it can be a great relief if you bring the questions of suicide into the open, and discuss it freely without showing shock or being judgmental. A willingness to talk about suicide shows that you are taking the person seriously and responding to the potential of her or his distress. Talking about suicide promotes understanding and can greatly reduce the emotional distress of a suicidal person.
Suicidal thoughts or feelings and suicide attempts are usually in response to unbearable emotional pain. The suicidal person is often so distressed that they canít see that they have other options and feels so isolated that they feel that they canít turn to anyone. In many cases, the person isnít coping with an event or series of events that they personally find overwhelming or traumatic. Experts believe that most suicidal individuals do not want to die. They just want to end the pain they are experiencing.
The only way to know for sure if someone is suicidal is to ask them, however there are several warning signs that are frequently associated with people who are feeling suicidal.
- Symptoms of depression, such as: lack of interest in usual activities, sadness, hopelessness, irritability, changes in appetite, sleep and activity level.
- Withdrawing from friends and family.
- Talking writing or hinting of suicide.
- Purposefully putting personal affairs in order, such as giving away possessions, sudden interest in their will of life insurance, and clearing the air over past personal incidents.
- Previous suicide attempts.
If you suspect that someone you know is or might be suicidal there are some things that you can do to help.
- Stay calm, talk to them and listen.
- Let the person talk about their feelings.
- Be accepting, do not be judgmental.
- Ask them directly if they are having suicidal thoughts.
- Take all threats of suicide seriously.
- Do not swear secrecy. Tell someone even if it means you have to call 911.
- Limit their access to firearms or other lethal means of committing suicide.
- Assist them in getting help, such as: clergy, teachers, counselors, the emergency room or a crisis hotline.