Suicide is the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in 2014, an estimated 42,773 American died by suicide. However, this counts only those who were successful. In 2014, approximately 494,169 people visited hospitals injuries due to self-harm.
Suicide is a permanent answer to what is often a temporary problem. Those who actually attempt suicide typically no longer believe they can solve their problems or ease their pain and see it as their only answer.
Because of the stigma surrounding suicide, knowing the signs, symptoms, and what to do if you believe your loved one is considering suicide can play an important role in prevention.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
It is normal to experience any one or more of these symptoms. However, if the behavior lasts for more than two weeks it should be treated as a possible sign of suicidal feelings.
- Excessive sleeping, daily fatigue, loss of energy
- Headache, stomach ache
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Weakness, dizziness
- Changes in personal appearance, attitude or personality
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Unwillingness to communicate
- Use of alcohol or other drugs
- Depression, moodiness
- Loss of interest in activities
- Spending time alone
- Running away from home
- Aggression, violence, emotional outburst
- Constant complaints of minor aches and pains
- Giving away possessions
- Participating in risk-taking or self-destructive behavior
- Talk of suicide
- Lack of self-esteem or self-worth
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Depression, irritability
- Feelings of inappropriate guilt
- Feelings of hopelessness, inner turmoil
- Feeling that most things are overwhelmingly difficult
- Feelings of isolation (with family and friends)
- Inability to maintain a close relationship
- Inability to resolve problems
- Inability to accept the loss of death of a loved one
- Lack of emotional balance
- Recurrent thoughts of death and suicide
What to do
Always take anyone, even children, seriously if they talk about suicide. Talking about suicide is the first visible sign and should never be shrugged off as a need for attention. Suicide is serious and often preventable if the behaviors are recognized.
- Ask directly: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” This does not mean you are encouraging the action, rather that you are willing to listen and help.
- Talk about it. Ask for details if you think that plans have already been made.
- Be a good listener. Listen with eyes as well as ears, and look for nonverbal signs such as hand motions, facial expressions, and moods. Never act shocked, disgusted or make moral judgments.
- Avoid giving advice. Try not to provide solutions or tell the person to “stop letting things bother you so much”, “not to feel that way” or “how lucky he is”. Listen, do not give opinions.
- Show that you are there to talk and listen. Reassure the person that people care about what happens to him or her. Show unconditional love.
- Seek professional help. A suicidal person needs professional advice and counseling. Breaking confidences is not disloyal, especially if it saves someone’s life.
- Avoid leaving the person alone. Especially if there is any immediate danger.
- Firearms accounted for nearly 50% of suicides in the United States in 2014. Therefore, it is important to take extra precautions if someone you know is thinking about or has attempted suicide. Lock away guns and keep ammunition separate from the firearm, and store pills securely or dispose of them properly.
If you discover someone who has attempted suicide, treat the situation as a medical emergency and get help immediately.