Suicide and suicidal thoughts are difficult topics to discuss. What’s the difference between the two? Suicidal thoughts are any thoughts you have about wanting to end your life. Suicide is the action made to end your life. These thoughts and actions don’t happen overnight; rather they are the result of a myriad of factors over time. Contrary to common beliefs, talking about suicide does not result in more suicides – in fact, it does quite the opposite.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and in 2018 alone, 48,344 Americans took their own lives with an estimated 1.4 million suicide attempts happening in that same year. These are pretty shocking statistic. For many, thinking of someone they love ending their life or even struggling with thoughts of ending their life is horrifying. Because of this, people rarely feel comfortable talking about suicide. The stigma around mental health and suicide contributes to the neglect of discussing this important topic. Being able about to talk openly about suicide and the many ways it impacts those involved is important for preventing further suicides and ending the stigma around the topic.
15 Signs in Recognizing Suicidal Thoughts
There are many ways that suicidal thoughts can show up in someone. Everyone processes emotions and situations differently; the same goes for suicidal thoughts and actions. Being able to spot some of the ways that people may be showing suicidal thoughts is the first step in prevention and getting them the help they need. Below is a short list of different signs that can appear when someone is thinking about or considering taking their own life.
1. Increased use of alcohol or drugs
2. Talking about wanting to die
3. Talking as if others would be better off without them
4. They’ve socially withdrawn all of a sudden
5. They try giving away their possessions
6. Displaying extreme mood swings
7. They are pushing themselves in self-destructive ways
8. Talking about being a burden to others
9. They have said they don’t know how much longer they can go
10. Behaving recklessly
11. They have started practicing increased self-harm
12. They keep saying how much they want to stop suffering
13. They are experiencing a lot of distress reliving trauma
14. They cannot envision a future they want to live in
15. Expressing extreme loneliness and isolation
There are many ways we all can help prevent suicide or help those who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Understanding that suicidal thoughts and actions need to be taken seriously and require an immediate response to get a mental health professional involved is essential.
As parents, teaching our children what to do when their friends talk about suicide, self-harm, or feeling hopeless is one of the biggest thing we can do to help. Allowing the space to have clear, non-judgmental conversations around these topics will help to destigmatize these situations as well as show our children how to recognize this within their friends. It is also important to teach our children how to stand up against bullying or other ways in which children become isolated within peer groups. We are able to teach our children which adults are there to provide support in these situations, such as school counselors or other mental health professionals. Giving our children the tools to handle difficult situations and the space to share the emotions they have around this topic is crucial for suicide prevention.
As peers and friends, we can learn the signs of suicidal thoughts, which include the signs we listed above. When you begin to notice a friend or colleagues’ personality or affect change, having direct and nonjudgmental conversations with them shows that you care and are there for them when in need. Supporting your friend or colleague in the search for a mental health professional is another helpful step in preventing suicide. Showing someone that you are there for them helps alleviate the feelings of loneliness and isolation that often come with suicidal thoughts. As classmates in school, having a trusted adult, such as school counselors, to go to when you are worried about your friends can also help. The adult will be able to help you process the emotions and worries you have as well as get your friend the help they need.
As mental health professionals, we can continue to spread knowledge and understanding around this topic and help end the stigma against mental health and suicide. It is imperative to seek supervision, consult with peers, and continue to be trained in the topic of self-harm and suicide. Having higher levels of training in recognizing signs of suicidal thoughts and knowing how to talk to someone who is considering suicide is a crucial step in prevention. We are also able to use our role as a way to advocate for more suicide training, education, and supportive services within schools, workplace environments, and within the communities we live in. The more we can destigmatize this topic and provide a network of support for individuals considering suicide, the more suicides we can prevent.
If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts or actions, please reach out to a mental health professional or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK (8255)
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