The Journal of the American
Medical Association has reported that 95% of all suicides occur at the
peak of a depressive episode. The illnesses that cause suicide can distort
thinking, so people can't think clearly or rationally. They may not know
they have a treatable illness, or they may think that they can't be helped.
Their illness can cause thoughts of hopelessness and helplessness, which
may then lead to suicidal thoughts. If depression is recognized and treated,
suicidal thoughts can be eliminated. Many suicides can be prevented.
KNOW WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Symptoms of Depression
Persistent sad or empty mood.
Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness,
guilt, pessimism, or worthlessness.
Chronic fatigue or loss of
interest in ordinary activities, including sex.
Disturbances in eating or sleeping
Irritability, increased crying; generalized anxiety (may include
chronic fear of dying/convinced dying of incurable disease), panic
Difficulty concentrating, remembering,
or making decisions.
Thoughts of suicide; suicide
plans or attempts.
Persistent physical symptoms
or pains that do not respond to treatment - headaches, stomach problems,
neck/back pain, joint pain, mouth pain.
If you are concerned about
any of these symptoms, ask the person how he or she is feeling. Getting
help is key to suicide prevention... the earlier, the better.
Warning Signs of Suicide:
Talking or joking about suicide.
Statements about being reunited with a deceased loved one.
Statements about hopelessness,
helplessness, or worthlessness. Example: "Life is useless."
"Everyone would be better off without me." "It doesn't
matter. I won't be around much longer anyway." "I wish I
could just disappear."
Preoccupation with death. Example:
recurrent death themes in music, literature, or drawings. Writing
letters or leaving notes referring to death or "the end".
Suddenly happier or calmer.
Loss of interest in things
one cares about.
Unusual visiting or calling
people one cares about - saying their good-byes.
Giving possessions away, making
arrangements, setting one's affairs in order.
Self-destructive behavior (alcohol/drug
abuse, self-injury or mutilation, promiscuity).
Risk-taking behavior (reckless
driving/excessive speeding, carelessness around bridges, cliffs or
balconies, or walking in front of traffic).
Having several accidents resulting
in injury. Close calls or brushes with death.
Obsession with guns or knives.
KNOW WHAT TO DO: If you see possible warning signs of suicide...
It's okay to ask the person,
"Do you ever feel so badly that you think of suicide?" Don't
worry about planting the idea in someone's head. Suicidal thoughts
are common with depressive illnesses, although not all people have
them. If a person has been thinking of suicide, he will be relieved
and grateful that you were willing to be so open and nonjudgmental.
It shows a person you truly care and take him seriously.
If you get a yes to your question,
question the individual further. Ask, "Do you have a plan?"
If yes, ask, "Do you know when you would do it?" "Do
you know when?" (today, next week?) "Do you have access
to what you would use?" Asking these questions will give you
an idea if the person is in immediate danger. If you feel she is,
do not leave her alone! A suicidal person must see a doctor or psychiatrist
immediately. You may have to take her to the nearest hospital emergency
room or call 911. Always take thoughts of or plans for suicide seriously.
Never keep a plan for suicide
a secret. Don't worry about breaking a bond of friendship at this
point. Friendships can be fixed. And never call a person's bluff,
or try to minimize his problems by telling him he has everything to
live for or how hurt his family would be. This will only increase
his guilt and feelings of hopelessness. He needs to be reassured that
there is help that what he is feeling is treatable, and that his suicidal
feelings are temporary.
If you feel the person isn't
in immediate danger, you can say things like, "I can tell you're
really hurting", and "I care about you and will do my best
to help you." Then follow through - help her find a doctor or
a mental health professional. Be by her side when she makes that first
phone call, or go along with her to his first appointment. It's not
a good idea to leave it up to a person to get help on her own. A supportive
person can mean so much to someone who's in pain.
In order to save lives, it's
critical that we recognize the symptoms of these biological diseases
that cause suicide. There is still stigma associated with these illnesses,
which can prevent people from getting help. Your willingness to talk
about depression and suicide with a friend, family member, or co-worker
can go a long way in reducing stigma. Education is the key to understanding
the tragedy of suicide that, in many cases, can be prevented.
Copyright (c) 2000 SAVE Suicide
Awareness Voices of Education 7317 Cahill Road, Suite 207, Minneapolis,
MN 55439 Phone 952.946.7998 or 1.888.511.SAVE Fax 952.829.0841 www.save.org