What do you do if you see someone exhibiting suicidal behavior?
The first step should always be to speak to the individual and ask if they are OK.
Be direct with your question, ask them, “Are you OK? Are you thinking about ending your life?” If they react quickly with a, “no!” and look as if you are crazy then you can probably laugh with them and say, “great, I’m just concerned about you.”
If they hesitate for a split second then chances are they are thinking it. If they skirt the issue, ask again, “Do you have a plan to end your life?” Again, be direct. Your next step would be to say that you are concerned about them, that you have no judgement, you just want to help.
Ask them if you can take them to a facility for help and if you feel they need immediate help then call 911.
What are some signs of a suicidal person?
The American Association of Suicidology has create an easy acronym to help identify immediate warning signs of suicide – IS PATH WARM?:
Ideation Thoughts of suicide (expressed, threatened, written)
Substance abuse Increased or excessive alcohol or drug use.
Purposelessness Seeing no reason for living, having no sense of meaning or purpose in life.
Anxiety Anxiousness, agitation, nightmares, inability to sleep or excessive sleeping.
Trapped Feeling as though there is no way out of current circumstances
Hopelessness Feeling hopeless about oneself, other or the future.
Withdrawal Isolating from friends, family, usual activities, society.
Anger Feelings of rage or uncontrollable anger. Seeking revenge for perceived wrongs.
Recklessness Acting without regard for consequences, excessively risky behavior.
Mood Changes Dramatic changes in mood, unstable mood.
People do not have to exhibit all of these signs to attempt suicide, it can just be a few. For example, most people have thought about suicide, more as a curiosity than an action, but if you read on an individual’s social media or hear someone actually putting into words how they would kill themselves, then they have “Ideated.” Being reckless, like driving your car 100 miles and hour, is another example. A sudden mood change from being depressed to happy may mean they have made the decision to end their life so now they know the pain will go away.
What causes someone to become suicidal?
Sadly there is not a direct cause, but we have found many of the risk factors to be as follows:
- History of physical/emotional/sexual abuse
- History of family violence
- Personal trauma
- History of suicide in the family
- Recent suicides in geographical area. Age & group in younger clients, contagions
- Reasons for dying
- Desire to die
- Age: peak 55-65 (veterans increases with age), 15-34 second leading cause of death is suicide
- Sex: women attempt three times more than men, but men complete at four times more
- Some prescription medications
- Relationship problems
- Financial strain
- Legal issues
- School issues
- Work issues
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of proper nutrition
A chain of risk factors can prompt a person to rapidly contemplate suicide without ever showing any of the above signs.
C.A.T.S. is another example of the progression – Crisis, Acute grief, Trauma, then Suicide.