What you know could save a life

Most people who commit suicide are in a great deal of emotional pain—but they don’t want to die. They just want to stop hurting. To prevent a suicide, know the warning signs and take them seriously. If you think someone you know is considering suicide, talk openly about it. You could save a life.

Major warning signs for suicide include:

  • Talking about killing or harming oneself
  • Frequently talking or writing about death or dying
  • Having or seeking weapons, drugs or other items that could be used for suicide

These signals are even more dangerous if the person has depression or another mood disorder or is alcohol dependent. A previous suicide attempt or a family history of suicide also adds to the seriousness of the warning signs.

More subtle warning signs of suicide include:

  • A feeling of hopelessness
  • Dramatic mood swings or sudden changes in personality
  • Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
  • Neglecting one’s appearance
  • Big changes in eating or sleeping habits

Take any suicidal talk or behaviors seriously. It’s not just a warning sign. It’s a cry for help. Don’t hesitate to take action and respond.

Behavioral Medicine is available at PacMed. Our psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists understand that even people with good mental health occasionally need help to cope with problems.

Please call 1.888.4PACMED, (1.888.472.2633) or make an appointment.

Prevention tip #1: If you’re concerned, speak up

  • Let the person know you care and that he or she is not alone.
  • Listen.
  • Be sympathetic and nonjudgmental. Be patient, calm and accepting.
  • Offer hope by saying that help is available and that the feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
  • Ask, “Are you having thoughts of suicide?”

Prevention tip #2: If it’s a crisis, respond quickly

Usually, a person at high risk for committing suicide has a specific plan, the means to carry it out (gun, razors, pills, etc.), a time set for doing it and the intention to do it. If you think a suicide attempt seems imminent, immediately call 911, call a crisis center like the National Suicide Center Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or take the person to an emergency room. Do not leave the person alone.

Prevention tip #3: Offer help to the person

  • Get the person professional help.
  • Be proactive. Suicidal people often don’t think they can be helped.
  • If a doctor prescribes medication, make sure it’s taken as directed. Watch for side effects.
  • Together, create a safety plan with steps that the person promises to follow in a crisis.
  • Include phone numbers for a doctor, therapist and friends and family members who will help in an emergency.
  • Remove possible means of suicide.
  • Encourage positive changes in lifestyle—such as sleep, a good diet and exercise.
  • Continue your support over the long haul.

If you or someone you know has displayed signs of suicide, don’t wait—get help.