Suicide is the act of intentionally ending one’s own life. Many people are uncomfortable talking about suicide, but it has become an epidemic all over the world.
In America: Worldwide:
If you, or someone you know, has had thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Suicide Prevention starts with raising awareness, learning more, and taking the matter seriously.
There are many risk factors and warning signs that may indicate a person may be considering suicide, but it’s important to know the difference between the two.
Risk Factors are characteristics that make it more likely a person will attempt suicide, but it does not mean that they will:
Warning Signs may mean that someone is at high risk for attempting suicide. Especially if a behavior is new or has increased recently. All warning signs should be taken seriously:
Protective Factors are characteristics that make it less likely a person will attempt suicide:
If you, or anyone you know, is exhibiting warning signs, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Definitions you should know (Adapted from the Irish Hospice Foundation):
An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts, that affects the way a person feels about oneself, and the way one thinks about things. A depressive disorder is not the same as a passing “blue” mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be wished away.
People with a depressive disease cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people with depression.
In the context of mental health, counseling is generally used to denote a relatively brief treatment between a counselor and a client which is focused mostly upon behavior. It often targets a particular symptom or immediately problematic situation and offers suggestions and advice for dealing with it.
Psychotherapy is generally a longer term treatment which focuses more on gaining insight into chronic physical and historical emotional problems. Together, the therapist and client may investigate underlying causes and deep rooted emotions. Its focus is on the client’s thought processes and way of being in the world rather than their specific, immediate problems.
The act of intervening, interfering or interceding with a situation with the intent of modifying the outcome. In medicine, an intervention is usually undertaken to help treat or cure a condition.
Any injury, whether physically or emotionally inflicted. “Trauma” has both a medical and a psychiatric definition.
Medically, trauma refers to a serious or critical bodily injury, wound, or shock.
In relation to mental health, trauma refers to an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking, which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.
When a person chooses to commit suicide, the impact on their family and friends left behind is devastating.
Some common grief emotions and reactions include:
If someone you know has recently lost a family member or friend to suicide, here are some things to keep in mind when trying to offer support:
If someone you know is grieving the loss of a family member or friend due to suicide, you may have questions about how to act.
Below are a few common questions/concerns (adapted from the Irish Hospice Foundation):
It is better to acknowledge a person’s loss than to avoid talking about it. However it’s important to remember that while a person may gain some comfort in learning that you have been through something similar, you should try not to relate their loss to your own, and you should never assume that you know how they feel.
Ask them what would be helpful for them. Practical things such as going for coffee, for a walk, or taking some time out with them may be helpful. Allow the person who is grieving to guide you on what would be helpful for them.
Suicide attempt survivors are at an increased risk for suicidal behaviors.
Tips for Suicide Attempt Survivors (adapted from suicidepreventionlifeline.org):
It can be hard to open up to others, especially if you are unfamiliar with them. So, make sure you find someone who you feel comfortable around and with whom you can be completely honest.
When difficult moments come up, it can be hard to not slip back into old habits and old ways of thinking. It is likely that life situations will occur that will bring up suicidal thoughts again. Developing a safety plan with a counselor or therapist is one of the most important things you can do, as having a plan in place can help you deal with those thoughts and emotions and keep you safe.
It can help you from feeling overwhelmed by simply leading you one step at a time towards people to contact or actions to take. You can keep it with you at all times in a hidden place like a wallet or even saved in your cell phone. Look at it any time you start to have suicidal thoughts or thoughts of hurting yourself.
When creating your safety plan, things to keep in mind:
1. Warning Signs
Recognize what kinds of thoughts, images, moods, situations and behaviors trigger suicidal thoughts and may indicate that a crisis may be beginning. Write them down on your safety plan in your own words.
2. Coping Strategies
What are things that can help you to not act on harmful thoughts? (ex: quotes, music, or the names of people to talk to)
Make a list of people you feel safe with and of places you feel safe at that can help you take your mind off of things and feel relaxed.
4. Contact Family/Friends
Make a list of the family and/or friends you feel safe confiding in when you are under stress and who are supportive enough to listen.
5. Contact Mental Health Professionals
Make a list of contact information for crisis hotlines, ERs, clinicians, etc.
6. Seek a Safe Environment
Limit access to means which may help you hurt yourself. Make sure you feel safe in your environment and stay away from trigger environments.
Below is an example of a Safety Plan Template developed by Barbara Stanley and Gregory K. Bro:
This Safety Plan Template can be found at:
Surround yourself with hope. What we watch and surround ourselves with has a huge impact on how we feel and how we think. Listen to stories from suicide attempt survivors and listen to their life of recovery. Pick up on tips they have and listen to stories from their families and support network.
Keep yourself immersed in stories of hope and of life in recovery, like the story in the video below:
More videos of recovery can be found at:
Information and tips on how to do so can be found in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s brochure:
If you are an attempt survivor and feel like you are in crisis, please call:
Talking to children about suicide is incredibly hard and uncomfortable.
However, if a suicide has occurred, hiding what happened from a child can do them more harm than good in the long run.
If a child has lost someone they love due to suicide, there are many emotions they may be feeling:
Depending on their age, suicide can be very confusing for children and they may have a lot of questions. Talk to the child at their level and in a way that they will understand.
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education offers an example of an explanation you could give a child:
“Our thoughts and feelings come from our brain, and sometimes a person’s brain can get very sick – the sickness can cause a person to feel very badly inside. It also makes a person’s thoughts get all jumbled and mixed up, so sometimes they can’t think clearly. Some people can’t think of any other way of stopping the hurt they feel inside. They don’t understand that they don’t have to feel that way, that they can get help.”
It’s important that the child knows the suicide was not their fault.
Encourage the child to talk to a trusted adult about what happened and anything they may be feeling, and make sure you are available emotionally for them whenever they need to talk about it.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Suicide Prevention Lifeline (for young adults): http://www.youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: http://www.save.org/