Suicide is a serious public health problem in the United States. It is estimated that 2,220 people a day will attempt suicide, and 88 people will die by suicide, while countless others will have suicidal thoughts. This section will show concerned family members and friends how to recognize and help suicidal individuals.

iStock_0000075806618XSmallIt can be difficult communicating with someone who is depressed and suicidal. Often suicidal individuals have trouble thinking rationally, and may be very negative regarding their current situation and their options for the future. They are usually feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless and isolated. In that state, they may be unable to reach out for help and it may be necessary for others to take the first step in getting them help.

Recognizing the Warning Signs

  • Talking or writing about death or suicide; threatening to hurt or kill him/herself
  • Seeking access to a method or way to kill him/herself,
  • Giving away possessions, making arrangements for the care of children or pets
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Having no reason for living or purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Feeling trapped—like there’s no way out
  • Withdrawing from friends, family and others
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger
  • Acting reckless, risk-taking behavior as if they don’t care what happens
  • Dramatic mood changes

If you observe these signs, you will need to get help from a mental health professional as soon as possible.

One of the most important things you can do for someone who is feeling self-destructive is to listen carefully to what they are saying, and to ask them directly about their suicidal thoughts. Encouraging someone to talk about their suicidal thoughts does not increase their risk of acting on these thoughts. On the contrary, it gives the distraught individual a chance to “unload” and lets them feel supported—that someone cares.

What to Say: Are you thinking of hurting yourself? I care about you and I don’t want you to die. Tell me about your pain, what’s going on. I can get you some help!

Don’t be judgmental or argue with the person. Don’t agree to “keep it a secret”.

What to Do: Get help. Call 911 if the suicidal person has already done something to hurt him/herself, or if there is any immediate danger to the suicidal person or others. If possible, remove the weapon, pills or other means of suicide. Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline 614.221.5445 or 1.800.273.TALK for immediate assistance. Trained, caring volunteers will assess the situation and give you a referral for immediate or long-term help. Other potential resources include Netcare ACCESS 614.276.2273 for 24-hour emergency psychiatric assessment, the Emergency Rooms of local hospitals, and the suicidal individual’s current mental health provider, if they have one. If it is safe, stay with the person until help arrives or transportation is arranged.

Trying to help someone who is suicidal can be a difficult and draining task. Be sure to take care of yourself and access your own support systems.

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