Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2014. It’s an important day about an important topic.

Suicide touches all of us in one way or another – whether we have known someone who has committed suicide, supported someone bereaved by suicide, or have ourselves considered it during times of distress or hardship. It is, in fact, very normal to consider suicide in our most difficult moments, and thankfully most of us do not act on the thoughts.

Here are some signs that someone you know is struggling greatly and could be in a place where they are considering suicide.

  1. They actually talk about it. Sometimes people will say in a quiet way something like, “I wish I could die” or “ I just wish I could fall asleep and never wake up.” This may be a sign that they are starting to think about it as an option.
  2. You notice an increase in substance use, or substance abuse.
  3. You see signs of depression and/or anxiety in behaviours like: loss of appetite, changes in sleep patterns (either sleeping all the time or sleeplessness), emotional flatness, not finding any enjoyment in things or activities that used to be enjoyed, agitation, irritability or anger.
  4. They withdraw from social situations and choose to be alone instead and when they are with others, they are disengaged and withdrawn.
  5. They behave in reckless or dangerous ways, showing a disregard for their own safety.
  6. They express how meaningless life is or how hopeless and helpless they feel.
  7. They say that they feel trapped and like there is no solution to their hardship or problem.

You may not see all of these signs but when you see several, don’t hold back. You don’t have to be a professional helper or a mental health worker to have a conversation with someone you know about suicide. Here are some things to remember and to say if you think you see signs of risk of suicide.

  1. Don’t be afraid to talk openly about suicide with someone you think is struggling. You will not plant the idea of suicide, or be an instigator of suicidal thoughts in someone else. By bringing up the topic you show that you are someone who can be talked to about a subject that most are unwilling to talk about. You are someone who can be shared with.
  2. Be present, be open and honest, be yourself, listen.
  3. Know that you do not have to solve their problems or have the answers to their problems.
  4. Be calm and direct. Express your genuine concern for what the person is going through. Say something like, “You don’t seem yourself these days and I’m worried about you.” If they open up about what they’re going through ask, “How bad has it gotten for you?” “Do you sometimes think about hurting yourself?”
  5. If the person says yes to considering suicide, ask further questions:
    1. “Have you thought how you would do it?” and
    2. “Do you have the supplies (the pills, the gun, etc.) to follow through with it?” and
    3. “Do you know when and where you would do it?”
  6. The answers to these questions speak to how dangerous the situation is for the person. If the person knows the answers to all these questions, then do not leave them alone. Tell them that there is help for them and they need some help right now. Tell them you will help them out right now either by taking them to the closest Emergency Room or by calling the crisis line where very knowledgeable and helpful people work. The number for the Vancouver Crisis Line is: 604-872-3311. They will guide you through what to do.
  7. If the person says they consider suicide but have no intention of acting on it, let them know how common it is to think thoughts like this. And offer to be someone who will listen and help when needed. Ask them that if their thoughts of suicide should ever move into a more serious place where they actual are considering it, to let you or someone specific know. Invite them to be honest with you about that.
  8. Check in on the person sometimes. Don’t always wait for them to come to you.

If you are a support person to someone who is suicidal or are considering suicide yourself, there are resources to help you.

Suicide Prevention Information:

The Vancouver Crisis Line: 604-872-3311