Losing a loved one to suicide can be one of the most devastating situations an individual can experience in this lifetime. Guilt, confusion, pain, heart-break, even anger toward our loved one can be common responses. It just doesn’t make sense. They seemed so normal. They were acting just fine the last time I saw him or her. On the other end of the spectrum can be thoughts such as, I should have known. If only I had paid more attention. Why didn’t they say anything?
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. I write this post with an understanding of how painful losing someone to suicide is, and a desire to increase awareness and save as many lives as possible. We are never to blame for anyone else taking their own life, but we can be responsible for our own vigilance.
I was catching up with a colleague last week who works in a high school. A lovely person who engages with teens day in and day out. Knowing I am a therapist she often shares little anecdotes about her day and about some of the hardships students face at school. I enjoy listening to her stories, but this conversation in particular really stayed with me. She informed me that sometimes students are going through so much and no one notices. Sometimes students are feeling lonely, hopeless, and depressed, but even their own parents have not noticed it. This woman shared with me that she does not care if she is bothering parents, if she notices a change in a student’s demeanor or attendance, she wants to follow up to make sure they are okay.
I want to share with you information about warning signs and red flags that may help us recognize when someone might be on the brink of giving up. Oftentimes all it takes is ONE person to reach out and make a difference. ONE person can help save a life and prevent suicide. We can inspire a potential victim to ask for help. We can help a potential victim believe they can do this for at least one more day.
Suicide Warning signs:
Mood changes (depressed, irritable, anxious; if previously depressed, suddenly showing elevated mood or seeming “happy” again)
Change in appearance or demeanor
Isolating themselves and withdrawing from activities they previously enjoyed
Sleep disturbances, sleeping too much or too little
Talking about themselves as if they are a burden or expressing belief that life would be better if they were not around
Giving away their belongings to family and friends
Researching possible methods of killing themselves
Increased use of drugs or alcohol
Meeting up with family or friends with an air of finality as if they will be going away for a while
I hope you remain vigilant, engage in kindness, and take that extra moment show those around you that they matter. It is so important to notice the little things.
For additional resources and more in-depth information about this topic:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK