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  1. #1

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    What To Do if Someone You Know is Suicidal
    MayoClinic, April 16, 2004

    Talking to someone about suicide won't plant the idea in their mind. Instead, your support and guidance may help someone find treatment - and renewed hope.

    Hearing someone talk about suicide may make you uncomfortable. You may not be sure how to step in and help or even if you should take them seriously.

    Not everyone who thinks or talks about suicide actually attempts it. But it's not true that people who talk about suicide won't really try it. That's why it is important to take them seriously, especially if they have depression or another mental disorder or are intoxicated or behaving impulsively.

    Potential warning signs
    You may notice possible indications that a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide. Here are some typical warning signals:

    * Talking about suicide, including such statements as "I'm going to kill myself," "I wish I was dead" or "I wish I hadn't been born."
    * Withdrawing from social contact and increased desire to be left alone
    * Wide mood swings, such as being emotionally high one day but deeply discouraged the next
    * Preoccupation with death and dying or violence
    * Changes in routine, including eating or sleeping patterns
    * Personality changes, such as becoming very outgoing after being shy
    * Risky or self-destructive behavior, such as drug use or unsafe driving
    * Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order
    * Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again

    Some people don't reveal any suicidal feelings or actions. And many who consider or attempt suicide do so when you think they should be feeling better - during what may seem like a recovery from depression, for instance. That's because they may finally be able to muster emotional energy to take action on their feelings.

    Questions to ask
    The best way to find out if someone is considering suicide is to directly ask. Asking them won't give them the idea or push them into doing something self-destructive. To the contrary, your willingness to ask can decrease the risk of suicide by giving them an opportunity to talk about their feelings.

    You may have to overcome your own discomfort to discuss the issue. Here are some questions you can ask someone you're concerned about:

    * Are you thinking about dying?
    * Are you thinking about hurting yourself?
    * Are you thinking about suicide?
    * Have you thought about how you would do it?
    * Do you know when you would do it?
    * Do you have the means to do it?

    Remember, you're not trying to take on the role of doctor or mental health professional or to conduct psychotherapy sessions. But these questions can help you assess what sort of danger your friend or loved one might pose to themselves.

    Don't swear your discussions to secrecy. Not only is that an unwanted burden for you, but if you do make such a promise, you risk having to betray that trust if you need to enlist professional help. Don't worry about losing a friendship to mistrust when it's a life that could be lost.

    Do be supportive and empathetic, not judgmental. Listen to their concerns. Reassure them that help is available and that with appropriate treatment they can feel better. Don't patronize them by simply telling them that "everything will be OK," that "things could be worse" or that they have "everything to live for."

    If possible, assess their home for potentially dangerous items. You may have to remove items that could become weapons of self-destruction, such as guns or knives. But don't put yourself in harm's way, either.

    Getting help
    If the person is at imminent risk of suicide, call the police or emergency personnel, or take them to a hospital emergency room if possible. Some people who are a danger to themselves may need to get help against their will, such as involuntary hospitalization. If possible, find out if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs or may have taken an overdose.

    If the danger isn't imminent, offer to work together to find appropriate help, and then follow through. Someone who is suicidal or has severe depression may not have the energy or motivation to find help. You may be able to make phone calls to set up medical appointments or go along with them, or help sort through health insurance policies for benefits information.

    Many types of help and support are available. If your loved one doesn't want to consult a doctor or mental health professional, suggest finding help from a support group, faith community or other trusted contact.

    Offering new options
    There's no way to predict for sure who will attempt suicide. And although you're not responsible for preventing someone from taking their own life, your intervention may help them see that other options are available.

    Direct questioning, supportive listening and gentle but persistent guidance can help you bring hope and appropriate treatment to someone who believes suicide will offer the only relief.
    Last edited by ThatLady; September 7th, 2006 at 08:34 PM. Reason: Odd characters and format

  2. #2

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    Great post, Eunoia. I haven't been writing on my blog for a while now, but I'm going to add this now :)

  3. #3

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    thanks healthbound. it's nice to know this info is helpful. :o)

  4. #4

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    I have a friend who is suicidal. I posted in some detail about him on the schizophrenia forum recently. He's doing pretty well right now, but has had at least four suicide attempts in the past two years. A lot of people say he's not really trying to kill himself, otherwise he would succeed, but I don't know about that. He's landed in the hospital every time, and they've had to pump his stomach of intentional overdoses of over-the-counter medication. People say he's just trying to get attention, but I somehow don't buy that. Also, I never know if something I am going to say is going to trigger this, so I'm concerned.

  5. #5

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    Even if it is attention-seeking, that isn't a reason not to take it seriously. Some attention-seeking suicide gestures succeed.

  6. #6

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    My feelings exactly. Most of us seek attention from time to time, but not to the point of attempting suicide in order to get it.

  7. #7

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    you know, as much as some people may think this is for attention (just like people believe other behaviours, symptoms etc. are for attention) I wonder what it will take to believe that someone is suffering in one way or another? even if it is for attention, then there's a problem right there: why does the person feel like they need more attention or aren't getting enough? are they getting enough? and so on... if your friend has tried to comitt suicide multiple times, there's a reason- he has a problem and his solution when it comes down to it is to end all the pain- suicide. If that's not serious, then I don't know what is...

    Talking to someone about suicide won't plant the idea in their mind. Instead, your support and guidance may help someone find treatment — and renewed hope
    I don't think you're triggering your friend, you're just concerned and want to help... it would probably be more devastating if you wouldn't say anything to your friend at all. sometimes, having a person to listen helps a lot, so don't feel obligated to say the 'right thing' or a whole lot really when your friend just wants someone to listen or sit with...

  8. #8

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    I agree that even IF those attempts were attention seeking - GIVE EM THE ATTENTION - he obviously really needs it. I get very frustrated when I hear people saying, "oh, he/she just wants attention". Like, so what?!?!? Give it to him !!!

    Second, the chances of suicide increase with every attempt, so every attempt-regardless of how "serious" should be taken very seriously. And like Dr Baxter wrote, some attention-seeking gestures succeed (some people think that was the case with my sister).

    I also think that if someone makes an attempt "for attention" and no one responds - or if they do they respond with - "don't be so silly" or "you're just doing it for attention" or even worse...they ignore it all together...it may re-affirm a distortion that they are not worth living, thus making it "easier" to make an early exit. At least, that's how I felt after telling my dad that I was suicidal.

    Anyway, I think all attempts should be taken very seriously. Your friend is lucky to have you.

    One thing I would like to caution you about...

    Also, I never know if something I am going to say is going to trigger this, so I'm concerned.
    My sister attempted suicide and was hospitalized a few times before she finally succeeded. This tells me that she, like your friend, had been suffering for a long, long time. Also, you wrote that you posted about this in the schizophrenia forum, so I'm assuming he is also battling schizophrenia? Both schizophrenia and suicide are very complex. The reason for his attempts or desire to die could never be due to something you said or didn't say. The reasons for suicide are intricate and there are many many varying factors in each case.

    I bring this up, because I feel/felt responsible for my sister's death. I even thought that I could save her by making a special pact with her after her second to last attempt (obviously didn't work). And while I definitely believe that we can all make an impact on reducing the ridiculously high number of suicides, I also know -all too well- that sometimes you can do everything in your power to prevent suicide and somehow it still happens anyway. This is very sad and frustrating.

    Now after all of that rant...I'm assuming he is getting professional help??? If not, then you could absolutely help him here (actually-maybe not- if he's paranoid schizophrenic :)). The best thing someone did for me when they found out I was planning my own death was "forcing" me to tell my doctor. This must have been very difficult for him to do as I was literally begging him to keep my plans a secret (he had given me an ultimatum - either I tell my doctor or he would). But, as much as I didn't want to tell anyone about my plans, I KNEW he must have cared about me to make sure I got professional help. That in itself was helpful.

    Your friend is VERY lucky to have you, stargazer. You obviously care very much about him and truly want to help him in the best way you can. Keep us posted.

  9. #9

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    I think I see what you (Eunoia) mean. Even if it *were* only for "attention," then there is still a problem. What is lacking in the individual's life that he feels he isn't getting the attention he needs?

    I think what is probably happening is that people don't want to feel that they have any responsibility in his when he becomes suicidal, they are just tired of it, and they don't want to go out of their way. Perhaps they are frustrated at seeing the pattern repeat itself again and again. They feel that they don't know what to do, they're a little fed up, and maybe they've tried a number of times in the past to get through to him to no avail. So the solution is just to write him off, and not even try to give him the attention he needs, even though he seems not to know how to get it through normal social means.

    I think that in my case, I probably ought to just call him more-or-less casually every now and then and ask how he's doing, see if he wants to go out for coffee, etc., not with any real purpose other than to let him know he has a friend. I think everyone tends to wait until he contacts them, which he usually only does for some sort of business reason, or to see if they would liked to be involved in a project of his. So a good idea might be to initiate the contact, and to see if we can get together for the friendship alone, with no other particular motive.

  10. #10

    What to do if someone you know is suicidal

    (Note: to avoid confusion, I posted the above in response to Eunonia, and then Healthbound's post appeared, which I've not yet read. Please let me read it & then I'll respond in a little while.)

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