September is National Suicide Prevention Month which means we must bring attention to an incredibly important cause. In order to save the life of an at-risk individual, it is vital to recognize the symptoms and warning signs. Understanding the risks is the first step to preventing a suicide and aiding a loved one in getting the appropriate medical attention.
Some signs and symptoms of a person considering or having suicidal thoughts include:
- Talk about death or wanting to kill themselves
- Feeling of emptiness, hopelessness, and self-destruction
- Talk of shame, guilt or feeling trapped
- Feeling like a burden to others
- Withdrawing from usual social activities
- Taking unnecessary risks (that can lead to death)
- Displays of extreme mood swings or anxiety and agitation
- Giving away important possessions
- Putting affairs in order (i.e., making a will)
If someone you know is showing any of these signs, please consider taking the following prevention steps:
- Ask: “Do you want to kill yourself?” Studies show that asking does not increase suicidal thoughts or tendencies. Therefore, asking the tough question can only help, not hurt, an at-risk individual.
- Safety: It is important to keep the at-risk individual away from lethal items or places. This may seem difficult but not leaving this person alone or near a harmful object could save their life.
- Listen: Pay close attention to how they are speaking about themselves or to others. Starting a conversation about suicide can actually reduce suicidal thoughts, not increase them.
- Connect: Give the at-risk individual the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and save it on your phone: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Having this number easily accessible can absolutely save a life. In addition, you can direct your loved one to a mental health professional. Helping them acknowledge a problem and connecting them to the right counsel can be life-saving.
- Follow-up: Studies show that the number of suicides decreases once someone connects with an at-risk patient after being discharged from care. Give your loved one an encouraging and welcoming phone call or visit once they have completed treatment.
As a loved one, it is important to pay attention to any warning signs. If you have any concern that suicide may have crossed their mind, it is important to have that conversation with them. At the end of the day, an at-risk individual feels alone, anxious and like a burden. By showing interest, you are getting them one step closer to safety. Suicide is preventable and it is our responsibility to keep an eye out for those who need it most.
If you fear a loved one might be having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or Advantage Mental Health Center today at (727) 600-8093 to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced staff members.