What to look for and what you can do

Most people who consider suicide believe they have problems that they will never overcome. They think that no one can help them and that taking their own life is the only way out. People who are considering suicide often feel:
  • Helpless, like there is nothing they can do to feel better
  • Hopeless, thinking their problems cannot be solved by themselves or anyone else
  • Worthless, believing their inability to help themselves get better makes them a failure
  • Hateful toward themselves
  • Like a burden to others
  • As is the pain of living is too much to bear
People who feel these ways often show signs that health professionals consider “red flags” of suicide risk. These include:
  • Expressions of anxiety, which include agitation, insomnia or excessive sleeping, and mood swings
  • Outbursts of rage and/or persistent anger
  • A tendency to engage in risky activities, often without forethought
  • Increasing alcohol and/or drug use
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Talking about or threatening to kill someone else
In addition to red flags, there are also signs of crisis that require IMMEDIATE attention from a medical or mental health professional. These include:
  • Talking about hurting or killing themselves
  • Looking for ways to kill themselves
  • Talking about death or dying
  • Self-destructive behavior, such as drug abuse or dangerous use of weapons
  • Getting affairs in order (ie. making a will, providing for the care of pets in their absence, etc.)
  • Giving away of possessions
Helping someone feel supported and cared for makes a big difference in a challenging time. It doesn’t require a grand gesture or complicated task; a simple act of kindness can help someone feel less alone.
The most important thing is to show genuine, heartfelt support for someone going through a rough period. Some might worry about what to say, fear that they will make matters worse, or think that special training is required to safely raise the subject.
It’s not. Asking about suicide does NOT create suicidal thoughts- it simply gives veterans permission to talk about his or her thoughts and feelings. If you decide to talk with a friend or family member about suicide or a life crisis, try to keep these best practices in mind.
  • Remain calm
  • Listen more than you speak
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Act with confidence
  • Don’t argue
  • Use open body language
  • Limit questions to casual information gathering
  • Be as honest and upfront as possible

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