We Now Have Some Answers: Warning Signs and What to do if Someone You Know is Suicidal

September is Suicide Prevention Month. As part of that we want to share the article below, written by Kristen Roye, PsyD, about the warning signs of suicide and what can be done to help.

One week prior to my high school graduation I found myself sitting in the waiting room of the psychiatric wing of a local hospital. My family member had attempted suicide. I remember walking through the sterile white doors into the hospital to visit her and my world was forever changed. I recall struggling with feelings of anger, confusion and hopelessness during this time and thinking that no one should ever have to go through this process alone. I desperately thought “someone should have prepared me for this” “someone should have prepared my family for this” “why didn’t anyone teach us about this?”. I was searching for answers and no one had any. Why was it that at 18 years old no one had discussed suicide with me?

My family member was fortunate to get the help she needed and continues to lead a successful life. But I can’t help thinking that if my family was armed with knowledge she may not have reached the point of hopelessness, or the point of hospitalization. She may not have been in such unbearable pain that she thought the only way out was to end her life. 
Today we do have knowledge and we do have some answers that I would like to share. I encourage you to continue sharing this knowledge and talking to others about suicide. We now have the words and tools necessary to get help for ourselves and our loved ones. I know I only have your attention for a few short minutes and I only have a few words to get my point across. So here’s what I want you to know: you can be prepared, you can get answers and there is help. Suicide prevention is possible and there are a few things you should know. 

The most common warning sign of someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts is a change in behavior or new behaviors. This is especially true if the behavior is related to a painful event, loss or change. Warning signs typically fall into three categories: Talk, Behavior and Mood. Let’s break this down even further…

Talk Warning Signs

Pay attention if you hear anyone talk about: suicide, talk about a plan, talk about death and dying, talk about being a burden to others, talk about wanting to end it all or “for it to just be over”, talk about feeling trapped, talk about feeling hopeless or helpless or talk about unbearable pain.

Behavioral Warning Signs

Pay attention to increased engagement in risky behaviors (drug and alcohol use, risky activities- hiking, driving recklessly, etc.), changes in grades, changes in sleep or eating patterns, social withdrawal or isolation, getting access to lethal means (weapons, guns, razors, rope, pills), giving away possessions, saying goodbyes, and acting out aggressively.

Mood Warning Signs

An individual who is feeling suicidal will likely have a mood that is depressed, anxious or agitated, they may feel embarrassed, humiliated, hurt, or distraught.

What do I do?

If anyone you know has shown any of the warning signs above, it’s time to take action! Do NOT ignore the suicidal statements and think they are going to go away or are simply “for attention”. Take person seriously! Take some time to talk openly and honestly with them about their thoughts. It is extremely crucial that you ask directly if they are suicidal. And remember, this is not the time to offer advice or judgements of their thoughts. If someone is suicidal make sure to stay with the person until help arrives (i.e. mental health professional, 911 response team, etc.); do not leave them unattended. If possible, remove any potentially dangerous objects from person (i.e. razor, pills, etc.) and if the person is a minor make sure to alert parents/guardians. If you believe someone is suicidal call 911 or a crisis hotline to get immediate help. More help can be found by calling and texting below:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 Text TALK to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7

If you have a loved one struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideation, please contact Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss the best treatment options available.

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