When someone says that they are having suicidal thoughts or are saying something that is indicating that they might be thinking of suicide, it can be painful and difficult, and most of the times you are left with not knowing what to do, whether to talk about suicide or if your intervention might make the situation worse. The notion that someone you know, a friend or a colleague or loved one, talking about ‘wanting to die’ can be devastating. However, taking measures to help them is the best option.
Suicide can be an anxiety evoking issue and most individuals can be helped through their juncture of hardship if there is someone they can spend time with, who are willing to listen and take them seriously, and help them talk about their feelings, thoughts and emotions, in a safe space. Lets get something very clear: People who experience suicidal thoughts have been pushed to the edge by a system that demands subjugation of ideals, expectations, and lifetimes. The experience of marginalisation from a system that does not work is a major cause for what we now call institutional murders. Think of our farmers, our sex workers, Dalit students. People with suicidal thoughts don’t want to be dead, they just want a way to get through this terrible pain that they are experiencing.
Being able to talk to someone can make all the difference. Initially they might not be willing to talk about how they are feeling but one needs to be persistent. Talking about suicidal thoughts does not mean that it will push them to kill themselves nor does it mean that they will not actually hurt themselves. It is imperative to take any expressed intention of suicide very seriously.
How To Respond To A Person Who Is Possibly Suicidal:
- Recognizing the warning signs:
Most people who are suicidal do something to let others know what their intentions before acting on them. One can’t tell when someone is thinking of suicide, but there are some warning signs that consist of personal behaviour, verbal and non-verbal communications such as:
- Cutting off all social contact
- Feeling severely agitated
- Parting with personal possessions
- Acquiring means to harm yourself like medication or a firearm
- Feeling dejected
- Talking about death
- Escalation in mood swings like anger or irritation
- Amplifying the use of drugs or alcohol
- Performing self-destructive tasks
- Saying your final goodbye to people
- Making changes in your regular routine
If you believe that someone is thinking about or planning suicide, don’t be afraid to ask them about it. Talking about it won’t make the person act on it and will in fact show that you care or are concerned about their well being.
- Risk factors:
There are many factors responsible for suicidal thinking. These thoughts often creep into one’s mind when feeling hopeless and not in control of their life, like there is no meaning to it.
When it comes to suicidal ideations, it does not discriminate, anyone can be at risk. Suicidal behaviour is complicated and tangled. There is no single, definite cause or reason for it. Many different aspects are responsible for an individual’s suicide thoughts. Often these risk factors are a result of experiencing an overburdening world that we live in. A patriarchal, capitalistic, cis/het ableist world, where marginalised experiences can lead to the following risk factors:
- Distress or mental health issues such as depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or severe anxiety
- Certain medical conditions like cancer or a terminal disease
- Feeling chronic pains
- Having tried to kill themselves before
- Having a family history of substance abuse or suicide
- Having experienced childhood trauma
- Being near or in possession of firearms
- Fear of failure either in academics or social statues
- Being bullied or shamed
- Losing friends or family member’s acceptance after revealing sexual orientation
- Believing that your life is a burden for others
Suicidal ideations and initiating ways to harm oneself are an indication of extreme distress and not a benign “attempt for attention”, hence it should not be ignored.
- Simple ways to reduce suicidal thoughts:
Recognizing the triggers-
Looking for triggers that can lead to feelings of despair such as a death or a loss, alcohol use, or stress from relationships. Remove whatever thoughts you can and talk to someone, such as a counselor or close friend, about the others.
Eating healthy meals regularly, getting plenty of rest and relaxation to avert stress can help your body recover from past days. Exercise is also imperative to relieve stress and to boost your emotional well being.
Building a Community of Support-
Make the time to be around people who have a positive influence in your life and those who make you feel good about yourself. Also, don’t forget to give back to your community either through money or your time. Helping others and giving back can be a great way to get out of your own head and to find meaning.
Old habits have to die for the suicidal ideation to go away and new ideas must take its place instead. Focus on developing your personal and professional interests, finding enjoyable things to do, volunteering activities, or work that gives you gratification. When you’re doing things you find fulfilling, you’ll feel better about yourself and those feelings of despair are less likely to return.
Find personal ways to relieve stress levels. Other than exercising, you can meditate, use sensory strategies to relax, practice simple mindful exercises, and challenge self-destructive ideations to help you overcome suicidal thoughts.
- Learning about QPR:
Although we can’t foresee suicide for someone, we surely can help prevent it if they reveal their plans, in a quick and effective manner, with the help of QPR (Question, Persuade and Refer).
Q – question: If you believe that someone is showing signs in regards to suicidal ideations, ask them directly. Asking them upfront questions about suicide will not drive them towards the action. That is a myth.
P – persuade: Coax the individual into letting you help them in acquiring help right away and enlist their promise of not hurting themselves until you have arranged help for them.
R – refer: Refer them to an appropriate source for assistance by providing them with referral options and letting them choose on their own.
Even though it can be difficult, talking to someone regularly about your feelings, especially face-to-face, can reduce one’s suicidal thoughts or prevent them from committing suicide.
At Pause for Perspective, we have trained and experienced therapists who take all the signs of suicidal behaviour seriously and provide a safe space where you can talk about anything that is causing you distress. We offer counselling for individuals, groups and families of all ages alongside an array of Mindfulness Based Programs