Are you listening?
Eight out of ten people who kill themselves have usually given clear signs that they were considering suicide. While these signs can appear in almost anyone at some point in their life, it’s important to be aware of them and to take them seriously if they are showing up in the people you care about, work with, or share with in any way:
- Making a threat of suicide (“I wish I were dead,” “I’m going to end it all.”)
- Expressing hopelessness, helplessness, or worthlessness on a fairly regular basis (“I just don’t matter.” “What’s the point in trying? Nothing ever works out for me.”
- Talking about death a lot, especially if not a regular subject of their conversations in the past (“I’ll bet being dead is really peaceful.”)
- Having previous attempts at suicide in their background (that you know about…)
- Often seeming depressed, moody, or angry (“Why does this always happen to me?” “I don’t want to do anything anymore.”)
- Having conflict at school, work, or in their personal relationships (Being bullied is often a precursor to suicide among young people. Watch for the signs in your child or sibling that suggest he or she is being mistreated by peers or teachers or others in some way.)
- Substance abuse (Studies show that more than half of all adolescent suicides and attempts are associated with drug and alcohol abuse.)
- Taking high risks (Speeding, going to risky places, no longer caring about consequences, etc.)
- Withdrawing from other people (especially if the person has usually been fairly social.)
- Behaving differently than usual, or in odd ways
- Sleep difficulties (usually accompanying other signs)
- Loss of appetite (Can also indicate other kinds of conditions, so monitor closely to see if other signs are present as well.)
- Giving away prized possessions (Many who are secretly contemplating suicide will begin to give away items that they have long held dear. Jewelry, favorite books, furniture, mementos, cars, even money.)
- Suddenly seeming happy after exhibiting several of the above behaviors (Depression can often change temporarily to euphoria, especially when the decision to commit suicide has been reached.)
What to do if you fear someone is suicidal
Take immediate action. Depending upon the urgency of the situation, call your doctor, hospital, mental health facility, suicide hotline, or 911. Even if the person gets angry with you, you are doing the right thing.
In 2010, a Facebook friend exhibited several of the signs on the above list in her posts and comments. After a while, it seemed a bit serious. I contacted Facebook, and ultimately, the authorities in her place of residence. I also let some of our mutual Facebook friends know about the situation. We all agreed that intervention was necessary.
After everything settled down, she expressed extreme anger, unfriended all of us, and we’ve not heard from or about her since.
My guess is that we probably saved her life. At least we hope so. Being unfriended was a small price to pay.