Q: I am worried about my friend. He seems very down lately and talks about death alot. I am afraid that he is contemplating suicide. How can I tell if I am right?
A: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. The thought that someone we care for is in pain, is bad enough but the thought that they may take their life, is unbearable. No matter how hopeless life seems at times, we cannot know what lies ahead. Although we can not change our past we can change our future and how we deal with and react to our present.
Some of the signs that you should watch for when determining if your friend is suicidal are:
·BEHAVIOURAL crying, withdrawal, recklessness, quitting activities, giving away possessions, prior suicidal behaviour
·PHYSICAL lack of interest in appearance, lack of energy, loss of appetite, disturbed sleep, loss of sexual interest, increase in minor illnesses
·THOUGHTS talk of suicide, planning for suicide, feeling worthless, guilty, helpless, 9hopeless, lonely, thoughts of escape, sacrifice
·EMOTIONS sadness, lethargy, apathy, distress, anger
One of the most obvious and often overlooked methods of telling if someone is suicidal is by asking them. This will not plant the idea or cause them to commit suicide. It is best that you talk openly and freely and really listen. Telling someone that what they feel is silly and they should stop thinking that way is not helpful–it will only cause them to close up and not discuss the issue with you. Offer your friend support but most importantly, urge the person to get professional help. Tell them that if they will not agree to get help, you will tell someone who can help them. Refuse to agree to a secrecy pact. If the risk of suicide seems high, do not leave them until they are with a professional who is prepared to accept responsibility for them. Hospital emergency rooms, police, ambulance and distress lines are some of the immediate places to begin if the person does not have an involved therapist available.
Lastly, although it may sound cruel, remember that no one can stop a person who is determined to take their life. If you did all that you could and your friend does attempt suicide you can not take the blame.