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  • Writer's pictureCarolyn Hewett

Raise Awareness: Suicide

National Suicide Hotline: 988 Call or Text.

“A cry for help” many people say in response to threats of suicide. Manipulation. Wanting attention. Not serious. These are all terms I have unfortunately heard from people in response to someone who has talked about killing themselves. What they may not know, however, is how much thought and attention this person has put into suicide before even bothering to speak it out loud.

There are many indicators or warning signs in those at risk of suicide, and speaking about it is certainly at the top of the list. As a rule, we should take every suicide statement, threat, or gesture seriously always. This post aims to raise awareness of suicide culture in our communities and how the medical professionals need the help of everyday folks to be aware and intervene. Don’t wait to speak up, or assume they will get the help they need. If you’re interacting with someone at risk of killing themselves, You are the help they need.

Who’s At Risk?

Suicide rates are higher, statistically among adults ages 20 to 34 years of age, and 75 to 84 years of age. The highest known rates of suicide are of adults 85 years and older. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in our country and men die by suicide 3.5 times more often than females.

These may be simply statistics causing your eyes to glaze over, but let’s keep going and get a little more specific. Persons who have suicide or suicidal ideations (thoughts of suicide) in their family history are three times more likely to consider suicide themselves. Persons with substance dependence are at greater risk of suicide, higher during active using than during a remission period.

Financial stress is also a very high factor contributing to suicide rates and risk. Specifically if the head of the household (which statistically speaking tends to be men), falls on financial hardship making him unable to pay the rent, mortgage, or provide food for his family, he falls into a higher risk population.

Persons who find themselves in crippling debt, whether it be credit cards, loans, or other issues with money that continues to loom over them fall into an even higher risk category. When asked about the most hopeless situations people have felt in life, debt and financial burden is almost always a top answer.

What You Can Do

Everyone can play a role in preventing the unnecessary loss of another life. As mentioned, You are the help they are seeking. Here are some things to keep in mind when you are talking with someone who has mentioned thoughts of suicide:

Take them at their word. Brushing off their mention of suicide invalidates their distress. They might feel reluctant to share their thoughts further or reach out to a professional for help.

Pay attention to their language and behavior. The language they use and behaviors can be red flags of distress that should not be ignored.

Ask them directly. One misconception people have is that by saying the word “suicide”, they may be “putting ideas in their head”. This is never the case. Whether they have or have not thought of killing themselves, you asking them is not going to make someone suicidal.

Encourage them to talk about it. Not just to a therapist or a doctor, but talk to You. It may be scary, or uncomfortable, but if you can’t show them that their feelings matter they might stop confiding in you altogether.

Offer Compassion and Support. Stay with them and really listen. Don’t expect to fix it for them, you won’t. But your presence can make all the difference.

Encourage Professional Help. If someone appears to be truly at risk of being left alone, call the National Suicide Hotline with them. For them. 988. Or 911 if they have taken a drug or hurt themselves in any way that you’re aware of.

National Suicide Hotline: 988 Call or Text.

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