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How To Save a Life: Suicide Prevention

TW: Suicide

Suicide is nothing to joke about or poke fun at. Although many are affected by suicidal thoughts, suicide itself is preventable, and it is possible to live a better, much happier life. In this post, in honor of National Suicide Prevention Month, we'll take a deep dive into suicide and learn how to prevent it and save a life.

The Stats

In the US, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death with an average of 130 suicides every day. Globally, over 700,000 people die of suicide per year. While it is true that those with depression are 20x more likely to die of suicide, suicide can happen to anyone at any time. Also, contrary to popular belief, men are at 2x the risk of dying of suicide than women. This could possibly be a result of the constant pressure on men to hide their feelings to maintain their 'manhood.' These statistics are devastating, but there are a few things we can do to help lower these numbers. But first, who's at risk?

Risk Factors

Anyone can be affected by suicide, but these factors increase an individual's risk:

  • Personal history of mental illness (especially depression and substance abuse disorder)

  • Physical disabilities/illnesses (e.g., multiple sclerosis)

  • Family history of mental illness

  • Family history of suicide

  • Experienced some sort of trauma (e.g., sexual assault)

  • Previous attempt(s)

  • Exposure to domestic violence

  • Exposure to others' suicidal behavior (e.g., celebrities, peers)

  • Access to lethal methods (e.g., medication, firearms)

It's important to know the things that make it more likely for someone to die by suicide, but it's also important to know the warning signs.

Warning Signs

Warning signs for suicide can be very subtle, but they are still very real and should be taken seriously and with care. Here are some warning signs to look out for in other people:

  • Talking about planning an attempt

  • Bringing up committing suicide in conversation

  • Giving away valuable things

  • Obtaining a lethal weapon or stashing medications

  • Participating in risky behaviors (e.g., having risky sex, driving recklessly)

  • Expressing feeling that death is the only solution to life's problems

Knowing these signs and carefully identifying them can help save someone's life.

How to Save a Life

If you suspect that someone you know may be suicidal, follow ALGEE:

  1. Assess the person's risk.

    • The best way to know if someone is suicidal is to just ask them

    • Ask if they are having any suicidal thoughts, a plan to end their own life, etc.

2. Listen without judging.

  • Be there for them and just listen

  • Even though you may not understand what they're experiencing, you can still be accepting and validate their feelings

  • Genuinely caring and trying to understand can go a long way

3. Give support and resources.

  • At the end of the day, the most important thing we can do to help someone who is suicidal is to:

    • support them endlessly,

    • reassure them that they'll always have support, and

    • point them in the right direction (i.e., providing resources).

4. Encourage seeking professional help.

  • If the situation isn't urgent, help them identify a safety contact that will be available 24/7

  • Provide them with the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

  • Remind them that there's hope of recovery if they seek help

5. Encourage self care and support systems.

  • Urge the person to seek support from those who have previously helped them

  • Encourage them to use their support systems as much as they can

  • Remind them that they have people in their corner who love and care about them

  • Encourage acts of self care (e.g., journaling)

If you sense that someone is in immediate danger, call 911.

Final Thoughts

In order to help prevent future suicides, it is crucial to know all of the information above. It is key that we remain with our arms and hearts open, ready to support whoever is in need. If you don't feel comfortable enough to give advice, just being there and listening to them is also very helpful. Most suicidal people feel alone in their struggles, but being there as an unconditional support system can help them feel comforted and finally feel heard.

If you or someone you know are in need of help, check out my 'Resources' page. (Just click the link!)

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