The recent rash of celebrity suicides has been the catalyst for many conversations about suicide awareness and suicide prevention. However, some of these conversations are not as helpful as they could be.
In this article, we offer some resources and advice about how to get the right help for someone who is suicidal.
Why Is Suicide Awareness and Education Important?
When celebrities commit suicide, comparisons are often made to the stereotype of the tortured artist. What is often ignored is that suicide is not romantic. It’s brutal, painful, and most importantly, preventable.
In 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of teens and young people who have committed suicide has tripled since the 1940s. Although it’s difficult to determine the exact causes of this, bullying is known to be a contributing factor in many of these deaths.
Current statistics state that 4,400 teenagers commit suicide every year, in the U.S. and it’s the third leading cause of death in young people. If that’s not frightening enough, consider that 14% of high school students have thought about committing suicide and another 7% have attempted it.
Part of the high youth suicide figures can be attributed to the fact that many people are unaware of the warning signs regarding suicide. Another issue is that people don’t always know how to apply mental health first aid to help someone who is suicidal.
It’s important to remember that suicide doesn’t discriminate.
Race, gender, socioeconomic status are all factors that contribute to suicide, but neither one is more prominent than the other.
As the recent celebrity suicides have reminded us, even people we consider successful, are not immune. However, often the warning signs are there, if we know what to look for.
If you’re worried that someone you love may be suicidal, here are some of the signs and symptoms you need to watch for in a person:
- Threatening, planning, or talking about suicide or harming themselves
- Erratic and intense mood swings and expressing feelings of rage, anger, or feelings of revenge
- Increase in alcohol, drug use, or other risky behaviors
- Withdrawal and isolation from family, friends, and previously enjoyed activities
- Erratic sleep patterns: either sleeping too much or too little
- Anxiety, agitation, and panic attacks
- Behavior or expressions of feeling that they’re trapped and have no sense of purpose in life, no reason for living, or feeling like they can’t find a way out from their current situation
Mental Health First Aid: How to Help
If you or a loved one is in immediate danger of death by suicide, dial 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-TALK.
Other actions you can take to help your loved one include:
- Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. It’s important to bring the subject out into the open and the simplest way to do that, is to ask. If they say yes, find out how far their thinking has gone. Have they decided how they will do it? Seek professional help as soon as you are able.
- Keep them safe. This can involve removing all sharp objects from their reach. If they have decided how they will do it, or if they have a plan to do it, remove any items associated with that plan. Obviously, this is a temporary measure, but it removes the immediate danger.
- Actively listen. This means looking at the person when they speak, repeating back to them what they’ve said, so that they know you’ve understood them. Acknowledge their feelings. Talking about suicide does not increase the risk of an attempt occurring. Instead, it allows the person to express themselves and get help.
- Help them to connect to support services. This may include dialing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number for them to talk to a trained counselor. If this is too much for the person, encourage them to text the Crisis Text Line on 741741. Support them to make and attend a doctor’s appointment.
- Check-in with them again. It’s important to remain in contact after the immediate crisis has passed. Follow up with them. A person who has been feeling suicidal may not feel able to pick up the phone and call someone, so you need to get in touch with them and keep asking the questions.
Suicide Prevention Resources
Caring for someone who is feeling suicidal is difficult and often frightening. However, you shouldn’t do it on your own. There are many agencies who specialize in suicide prevention who are more than happy to help.
We’ve gathered together a few of those organizations here for easy reference. Some of these resources specialize in helping specific demographics.
The Jason Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that was founded by Clark Flatt, after his 16- year-old son, Jason, committed suicide. Their tagline is keeping more than dreams alive and a quick look around their website shows the valuable work this organization is doing.
The Trevor project provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention to youth under the age of 25 who are struggling. Their focus is on gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people.
This site focuses on providing information and resources for positive mental health for people who are in, or have been in, the military, and their families. Their website offers real and practical advice about how to get help in crisis situations and how to maintain strong mental health while in service or after. There is also a Military Crisis Line you can contact on 800-273-8255 press 1.
This organization offers an 8-hour course that teaches people how to respond in a suicide crisis situation. It teaches you how to identify the signs of suicide and substance abuse and helps you to understand what the person in crisis may be going through. Their website contains a blog with helpful advice and further resources.
This website has information regarding suicide prevention and a list of useful resources on the topic. These include training providers and organizations that are actively working towards lowering the national suicide rate.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was created to help people in crisis. If you, or a loved one, is experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation please call 1-800-273-TALK or dial 911.
You’re Not Alone – There’s Always Help
At Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute, our admissions and intake specialists are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Contact Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute for support and education for suicidal thoughts, for you or your loved one.