Not everyone is able to deal with challenges thrown at them. Some can feel low about losing someone, a failed relationship or an unsuccessful career, and decide to end their life. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that over 700,000 suicides happen every year across the globe. You may know people with suicidal thoughts, but may be uncertain how to help them. On the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day, which falls on September 10 every year, we tell you how to help a suicidal person.
Signs of suicidal behaviour
Suicide is a fatal act that represents a person’s desire for death, says Dr Ashish Gambre, Consultant Psychiatrist, SRV Hospitals – Goregaon, Mumbai. Although suicide is almost impossible to predict, there are certain signs of suicide to look out for –
• Intense sadness
• Social withdrawal
• Giving away important things
• Asking for forgiveness on small matters
• Exhibiting extreme mood swings
• Expressing feelings of burden on others
• Feeling empty, hopeless, lacking purpose in life.
• Increased reliance on alcohol or other narcotics.
Reasons why people have suicidal thoughts
Suicidal thoughts typically emerge when a person confronts a challenging circumstance or persistent stress that, in their perception, lacks a feasible solution, the expert tells Health Shots. People undergoing trying periods in their personal lives, such as divorce, recent bereavement, unemployment or the impact of chronic health conditions, tend to have such thoughts. If there is a family history of suicide, it can amplify the vulnerability to these thoughts.
Moreover, psychiatric disorders like major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, severe obsessive-compulsive disorder can intensify the presence of suicidal ideation. Dr Gambre says the risk of suicide among people with psychiatric conditions is three to 10 times higher than that of people without such conditions.
How to help someone who is suicidal
You need a lot of care and understanding when you approach such situations. Here’s what to do:
1. Don’t leave them alone
If you feel that someone you know wants to end their life, try not to leave them alone. You can encourage them to consult a mental health professional or consider seeking assistance at a medical facility.
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2. Assess the risk and stay composed
Not everyone who expresses suicidal thoughts needs to be hospitalised as many people experience suicidal ideation without acting on it. So, you also need to act accordingly.
3. Initiate a conversation with them
Talking may help the person with suicidal thoughts to some extent. Engaging in dialogue about their suicidal feelings might enable them to share their thoughts openly.
4. Don’t judge them
It is important to listen to what they have to say, but don’t go about judging them. If you judge them, they will have more negative thoughts about themselves and their life.
5. Convey your genuine concern
It is not all about them talking and sharing their thoughts with you. Offer them reassurance by conveying your genuine concern and letting them know they are not alone.
6. Contact suicide prevention helplines
The number might not be stored in your phonebook, but a quick online search will help you get through suicide prevention helplines. Encourage people with suicidal thoughts to contact suicide prevention helplines, suggests the expert.
7. Build social support
Don’t do everything yourself. You can try to build a strong social support system around people with suicidal thoughts. They can be family members or friends who wouldn’t judge them.
8. Ensure reduced access to alcohol
People with suicidal thoughts could be storing alcohol bottles in their house or going to pubs. So, restrict their consumption of alcohol or any other narcotic drugs if they are taking it as a coping mechanism.
9. Help them create a crisis plan
Put down some instructions on paper or mobile which the person can read when they think about suicide. These notes may have motivating reasons for staying alive, strategies to redirect harmful thoughts, a list of supportive people to contact or meet in times of crisis, as well as contact information for professional healthcare services.
10. Don’t call their suicidal thoughts silly
Don’t take it lightly if they are showing any sign of suicidal behaviour. Brushing aside their suicidal thoughts or dubbing their ideas silly is not good for them.
You can offer help anyone with suicidal thoughts, but you are not a professional. So, try your best to encourage the person to take help from trained mental health professionals. If the person is in immediate danger or you are concerned for their safety, simply take your phone and contact emergency services.