When is someone just going through a bad patch, and when is he considering self harm? It can be difficult to know the difference. And it’s wise to err on the side of caution. If you think a friend, student, patient, or a member of your flock is considering suicide, you will need to take appropriate action. Read on for some ways to tell when it’s that serious.
Just because someone confides his unhappiness in you does not mean he is suicidal. All of us have setbacks and rough patches.
So when does unhappiness or depression presage suicide? Suicidal people often give warning of their intentions. They may talk or joke about about killing themselves or say that life is no longer worth living. Or they may describe themselves as not of any earthly use. They may casually compare and contrast methods of committing suicide.
Experts have also identified these behaviors as signalling suicidal intention:
Rage and revenge fantasies
An increase in self destructive behavior such as increased drinking, drug use, reckless driving, etc.
Increase in number and intensity of mood swings
Sudden withdrawal from friends, colleagues, and family
Oversleeping or insomnia
It is very important not to dismiss a suicide fantasy as “just acting out to get attention.” The truth is that even suicide attempts that are aimed at getting attention sometimes go wrong and lead to death. Therefore, it is crucially important to treat any mention of suicide as a serious sign.
If you see any of the above signs, it is your responsibility to ask if the person who exhibits them is considering self harm. The Mayo Clinic also advises that you should ask if the patient is planning a suicide or has any tools or weapons that could be used to commit suicide.
One of the myths of suicide intervention is that you can put the thought of suicide into the mind of someone who did not previously entertain that thought. But science has debunked that.
Suicidal people may or may not be willing to go to therapy. Sometimes they will agree to go, but then not show up to appointments. Some psychologists believe that, if you have the power to require therapy, you should do so.
One university cut its suicide rate by over fifty percent after mandating four counseling sessions for students who threatened, staged, or rehearsed a suicide. Failure to comply with the policy was deemed reason enough to suspend the student from the university.
Pre-emptive strikes against suicide
To prevent suicide at your school, church, or other institution, make sure your people, especially teens, have sufficient access to counseling. The availability of counseling should be widely published so that everyone knows how to access it.
Mental health education should stress that there is no stigma to obtaining counseling. Many healthy people seek out counseling at various points in their lives in order to enjoy the best mental health possible.
Support groups should be available for people who have experienced a trauma such as rape, assault, death in the family, etc.
Light boxes, plants, and mood-boosting room colors should be made available for people who have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a syndrome wherein the absence of light in winter causes seasonal depression.
In conclusion, the best suicide prevention program is one that emphasizes treating depression before it becomes suicidal. Make sure that people you are responsible for have easy access to the resources they need to deal with trauma and depression. And know the signs of suicidal behavior and how to respond.