Wednesday 19 February, 2020

Recognising suicide warning signs and how you can help

Photo: Kristina Tripkovic

Photo: Kristina Tripkovic

Every year, September 10 is marked as World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). The day is organised (and co-sponsored WHO) by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). The purpose of this day is to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented.

There is a common misconception that suicide is unstoppable once the idea takes root, however, this isn't true. If you observe a friend or a family member is at risk for suicide there are warning signs you should start paying attention to that may help with early intervention. 

There are clear warning signs which include threatening to take one's life; saying things like 'No one will miss me when I'm gone'; looking for ways to take one's life such as seeking access to pesticides, firearms or medication, or searching online for ways to take one's life; saying goodbye to close family members and friends or giving away valued possessions.

There are other signs or changes that they may go through including physical changes. Physical changes include major changes to sleeping patterns (too much or too little); loss of energy; loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance; sudden and extreme changes in eating habits (loss of appetite or increase in appetite); weight gain or loss and a marked increase in minor illnesses. 

They may make statements like, “What’s the point? Things are never going to get any better”; “It’s all my fault, I’m to blame”; “I can’t take this anymore”; “I’m on my own … no-one cares about me” or“Nothing I do makes a bit of difference, it’s beyond my control”. 

They make engage in harmful behaviours such as alcohol or drug misuse; fighting and/or breaking the law; withdrawal from family and friends; quitting activities that were previously important; uncharacteristic risk-taking; emotional outbursts or self-harming. 


How you can help

Speak up if you are worried.

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.

You might be worried that you might ‘put the idea of suicide into the person’s head’ if you ask about suicide. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing your concern. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can give relief from isolation and pent-up negative feelings, and may reduce the risk of a suicide attempt.

Start by asking questions like "I am worried about you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately" or "What can I do to help you?"

Be mindful of resources and hotlines. Inform your friend or family member of said resources and offer support by being there through this difficult time. 

Suicide is preventable. If you feel you need support, please contact Lifeline at their new toll-free number: 800-5588, 231-2824, and 220-3636 or the Suicide Hotline at 645-2800 or 645-6616. The Ministry of Social Development has also shared a list of resources for mental health and abuse support.


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