Why it’s important to talk about suicide
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and an important time to talk about suicide. Suicide is not an easy thing to talk about. It can stir up a lot of uneasy feelings and carries a lot of stigmas. But, it’s so important.
Even though we may not discuss it openly, suicide impacts us all. Similar to cancer and heart disease, it is highly likely that every person has been impacted in some way by suicide. It accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death (an estimated 1.5 million every year). Yet unlike cancer or heart disease, most of us aren’t inclined to share stories of suicide. Many of us feel very uncomfortable talking to someone about whether they are having thoughts of harming themselves.
Ending the Stigma
There has long been a stigma that those who take their own lives are “selfish” or have some severe mental illness, but as we now know that is not the case. Suicidal thoughts are common in people with depression, anxiety, or schizophrenia, but they are also common in LGBTQ+ groups and anyone who is struggling with social pressures.
An Understanding of Suicide
There is a misconception that those who commit suicide want to die when they don’t in most cases. They want to end their suffering. The pain they are feeling is often excruciating and unbearable. They are fighting an internal battle. They wish there was an alternative but in their pain, they fail to see one. This is why it is so important to talk about suicide. Be open. If someone expresses feelings of hopelessness or says they are having suicidal thoughts, they need to be taken seriously.
Warning Signs of Suicide
There are a variety of signs that someone may be considering taking their own life. We all must be aware of the signs and symptoms so that we may be able to get a person help as soon as possible.
Some warning signs include:
- Talking about killing themselves
- Increased use of drugs/alcohol
- Disregard for their physical health/acting reckless
- Talking about having no reason to live or being a burden to others
- Researching ways to harm themselves
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Saying they “feel trapped” or are in “unbearable pain”
- Withdrawing from friends or family
- Frequently irritable or showing rage
- Increase or decrease in sleep
- Seeming down all the time
- Giving away possessions
- Saying “goodbye” to others
These are just a few signs that someone may be having suicidal thoughts. If someone you know is struggling, direct them to a mental health professional. They can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK or dial 988.
How to Talk About Suicide
We understand how daunting a topic suicide can be to approach. Here are some tips for starting a conversation about suicide:
1.) Say, “I’ve been concerned about you lately. Are you ok? Is there anything you want to talk about? I am here for you.”
2.) Say, “I’ve recently noticed some changes in your mood. You seem down. Are you feeling ok? I am here if you want to talk.”
3.) Say, “I want to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately. Are you ok? I am here for you.”
If someone does open up to you about their suicidal feelings, prompt them to keep talking by saying things like:
1.) When did you begin feeling like this?
2.) Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
3.) You are not alone. I am here for you and I care about you. What can I do to help?
When talking to someone who is admitting they are struggling, be yourself. Let the person know you care and they are not alone. Listen to the person and let them unload no matter how negative the conversation seems. Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, and accepting.
There are a few things you should be careful NOT to do when talking to someone about suicide:
1.) Don’t argue or say things about how much they have to live for.
2.) Don’t act shocked or lecture them on life’s worth.
3.) Don’t promise to keep it a “secret.” This is a life and this person needs help.
4.) Don’t offer advice or make them feel the need to justify their feelings.
5.) Don’t blame yourself for their feelings.
It is scary to know someone feels like they need to end their life. The best thing you can do for someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts is to help them get help from a professional. Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Get the person to a doctor, emergency room, or mental health professional.
As hard as it can be to ask difficult questions, it is so very important. You are opening the door for conversation and spreading the word that suicide is a global problem that impacts every person from every culture. It impacts every one of us.
DBT Informed Therapy
Dialectical behavioral therapy, known as DBT, is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy that aims to identify and change negative thinking patterns and encourages positive behavioral changes. It combines strategies like mindfulness, acceptance, and emotion regulation to assist clients in changing the way they think about certain things.
This type of therapy has been proven successful in treating those struggling with suicidal thoughts or other destructive behaviors. At CW Psychological Services in Pennsylvania, we have several clinicians that are trained and utilize DBT-informed therapy to help clients who are suicidal.
Ready to begin counseling in Pennsylvania?
Counselors and associate-level clinicians at CW Psychological Services are professionally trained. We have openings for online or telehealth therapy appointments. Email us at [email protected] or call at (610) 308-7575. We are here for you.