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5 Things to Know About Suicide

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Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website is here: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

At this site, you will find options for talking to people in Spanish or with TDD or even chatting by text. The main number is 1-800-273-8255 . Do not hesitate to call if you need help.

It is National Suicide Prevention Month and because of that, I’d like to address this difficult topic. If there are just a few things I’d like you to know about suicide and suicide prevention, it is these:

1) Talking about suicide does not give someone the idea.

In fact, you are more likely to help prevent a suicide by talking about it with people who are severely depressed. One of the pernicious effects of severe depression is the tendency to become withdrawn and isolated. Even if the depressed individual wants to reach out for help, they may not be able to overcome the lethargy and desire to be isolated in order to do so. If you reach out for that person and ask how they are doing, you are opening a line of communication which may save a life. Ask them directly, “Are you having thoughts about harming or killing yourself?” If they that they are, ask about those thoughts. If they have a method, particularly if it’s a very effective and lethal method (for example, a gun), you need to act. Take them to the nearest emergency room for an evaluation. You may literally be saving that person’s life as you do this.

2) Suicide is often an impulsive, momentary act.

Suicide is not always a planned and rational act. Sometimes it is an impulse. That is one reason we want to be so active in keeping a suicidal person safe: there’s a good chance that in the near future they will no longer want to end their life. If you are currently feeling suicidal, please reach out for help and make the commitment to yourself that you will stay alive today. You can make a different decision tomorrow, but you can’t change your mind once you’re dead. So, for today, stay alive and see how your situation changes.

3) Suicide is not an act of cowardice.

I hear people say this fairly often when the subject of suicide comes up. YMMV, but I believe that, especially when it’s not impulsive, suicide is an act of absolute desperation. It’s hard to imagine if you haven’t been there, but try: imagine that you are in excruciating pain mentally and possibly physically. You have been suffering for so, so long and you have no hope that it will ever be better. It is the hopelessness that is too much for people. Unending, unbearable pain grinds a person down until the only possibility of escaping it is to die. People in this position need help, not condemnation or judgment.

4) Your loved ones will NOT be better off if you kill yourself.

Often times, people who are thinking about suicide have the mistaken belief that their loved ones will be better off with them dead. For example, a father who has lost his job because of his drinking problem sees himself as such a loser and such a burden that he’s doing a kindness to remove himself from his family’s lives. This is not true! Your family will be devastated by your death, wondering what they missed and what they could have done to prevent it. They will question if you ever even loved them to do be able to do this to them. Their sense of safety and the stability of their world will be ripped apart. And, consider this: your loved ones will now be at a much higher risk of committing suicide themselves for the rest of their lives. Not killing yourself, even though you are hurting as much as humanly possible, is an act of deep love for the people important to you.

5) If you are suicidal, you can get help at any emergency room.

If you are actively suicidal, please have someone take you to the nearest emergency room. There, a mental health professional will meet with you and make sure you get the care you need. Often, you will meet with a psychiatrist, either in person or through a video connection. Some emergency rooms will treat suicidal patients with ketamine as it can very quickly resolve the feelings of suicide. In other cases, the hospital will make arrangements for you to be moved to an inpatient facility where you will be kept safe while you receive therapy and your mood is stabilized.

And here’s a bonus suggestion: if someone you care about is struggling with depression, you can make it easier for them to ask for help when they are suicidal by providing them with a piece of paper that you all agree means “I want to kill myself. Please help me.” It can be a colored index card, a piece of construction paper- whatever, so long as everyone understands that if your person hands it to you, it’s a request for help without any words ever being uttered. Sometimes it’s just too hard to put into words at that time.

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