[If you or someone you know is suicidal, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you or someone you know would benefit from our services, please contact us.]
Although a dreadful occurrence, suicide is more common than ever before. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), someone dies from suicide every 40 seconds. This comes down to a million individuals per year.
Whatever one’s experience with suicide is – directly, indirectly, or none – it is crucial to understand the signs of suicidal behavior so that we are able to seek help accordingly, as needed. To be able to tell that someone is suicidal is to be able to save another life.
Here are some signs that someone may be suicidal:
[Please keep in mind that not every suicidal individual will show these signs. Seeing a single sign also does not mean that the individual is suicidal.]
Suicidal talk. This involves questions or comments that may suggest that the person is considering suicide. They could ask things like, “What do you think about suicide?”, “How would you kill yourself?”, “Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”, “What do you think is the best way to commit suicide?” and so on. Someone may talk about it because they want your opinion or advice on committing suicide, while not openly admitting to it. It could also be a scream for help.
Obtaining a weapon. Of course, the mere act of obtaining a weapon doesn’t mean that someone is suicidal. But, if paired with the aforementioned signs, it should serve as a warning. This is especially if they do not show any signs of taking up activities such as shooting as a sport or gun collecting.
Abusing drugs/alcohol. When an individual feels lonely, they may perceive drugs and alcohol as a means of escape. They may also believe that these drugs will give them enough willpower to commit suicide.
Self-harm. One of the most prominent signs, examples of self-harm include
cutting, burning or poisoning oneself. It is a way for suicidal individuals to ‘test
the waters’. Self-harmers often believe that physical pain helps them escape the
Risky behavior. Studies have shown that suicidal individuals tend to take more risks. Look out for signs of impulsivity, such as reckless driving or picking fights.
Emotional outbursts. Watch out for unexplained emotional reactions. It might make no sense to you why something may have triggered such an emotional response for someone. But it could remind them of something highly negative or traumatic for them.
Previous attempts to commit suicide. This is the number one and most obvious sign. This is called ‘suicidal tendencies’. One thing that people don’t understand about depression is that it is not easily cured by a pill. A sudden stop of medication may trigger a wave of depression that is worse than ever before. This wave could lead to another suicide attempt.
Again, a suicidal individual may exhibit none of these signs. Some people may even appear happy and calm, and everyone might be under the impression that they are doing very well. A misconception about depression is that the lowest point is what causes someone to commit suicide. What actually happens at this point, however, is that the person is unwilling to do anything. They may be at such a low point that they are unwilling to eat, watch TV, or partake in their most enjoyed activities. Their days are spent mostly in bed.
Committing suicide actually takes some level of energy and planning, so it could happen when an individual is not at their lowest point. Before many suicides, friends and family members often report to have seen victims as happy and calm – they could have never predicted such a turn of events.
What many suicidal individuals do not realize is that situations and circumstances can change. Things can get better. Getting these individuals to seek treatment and support is the first step to make a big difference. There is help and hope available.
By Tasfia Jahangir