The recent celebrity suicide deaths have us all on notice to the alarming past when other depressed victims had this thought awakened and acted. After Robin Williams committed suicide, a staggering 2000 followed suit. There is a fear when celebrities, or high profile people, commit suicide that it will lead to more.
An estimated 20 million people (at least) suffer from depression in the United States, and many of those people choose to suffer in silence. Unfortunately, keeping such intense emotions tightly bottled up can lead to drastic, irreversible measures—like suicide. In fact, according to the American Society for Suicide Prevention, about 45,000 Americans die by suicide every year.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and for every completed suicide, there are 25 attempts.
It’s scary to think that someone you love could even have the idea of taking their own life, and hopefully you’ll never be in a situation where a loved one is having suicidal thoughts. But it’s important to know the signs, just in case, so that you can take action-and that can go farther than you’d think.
If you fear that someone you know is suffering from suicidal thoughts, these are things you need to do:
- Ask about it. “The reality is anyone with a significant depression has passing thoughts of death and suicide in a simple desire to end their misery,” says licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D. Instead of avoiding the topic, she recommends asking (with compassion) if things are so bad they have thought about death or ending their life. Depending on the response, Clark recommends being prepared to follow up with questions like what they’ve thought about doing and why.
- Talk about how much you love them. “Letting a loved one know how much you care about them, and offering help, can be an important lifeline in keeping them safe,” Clark says.
- Try to get them out and doing things. If they have shut down, Mayer recommends encouraging your loved one to participate in coping mechanisms that they’ve always enjoyed like taking them out for a manicure or grabbing a meal together. It’s also a good idea to try to encourage them to try new activities and experiences, Mayer says.
- Push them to seek help. “This is critical because many times an unqualified helper who says the wrong thing or does not offer any relief just makes things worse because then the suicidal person feels like no one can help them,” Mayer says. You can even do the legwork for them, researching good psychologists or asking for a referral, and actually escorting them to their appointments. If they’re reluctant to seek help, Mayer says there’s nothing wrong with saying encouragements like “Do this assessment-it’s one visit” or “Do this for your friends and loved ones.”
- Stay close. “Time alone if a person is withdrawn and suicidal allows for completion and should be avoided as much as is possible,” Clark says. Mayer recommends building a network of friends and family that continuously know where your loved one is and that they are safe. “In other words, they should be observed at all times as much as possible,” he says.
- Take them to the hospital. If it seems like your loved one has a plan and you’re worried to let them out of your sight, try to take them to the ER and wait there while they get assessed, says Myers. “Asking them to call a therapist isn’t going to help at this point,” he says. This is a major step in helping someone who is seriously considering taking their own life, Clark says.
According to WHO, more than 800,000 people commit suicide every year, and many more attempts to take their own lives. Suicide is a global phenomenon which affects individuals from all walks of life, irrespective of country, religion, caste, ethnicity, creed or gender. Truly, suicide knows no boundaries! People who commit/attempt suicide often have a previous history of depression, substance abuse, trauma and grief, sudden loss and bereavement, or a history of suicide in the family. It may also be caused due to mental illness or psychosis.
If you or someone you love is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
Ref. MSN/lifestyle, Women’s Health, NBC Nightly News
Photo courtesy of Bing.com