Suicide: one of the few remaining taboo subjects in polite society. It’s a tragic topic and not one people what to discuss but with the World Health Organization reporting approximately one death every 40 seconds due to suicide, it is essential that prevention be taught.
This year the Netflix original show “13 Reasons Why” brought suicide, specifically teen suicide, to the forefront of the media with its portrayal of a high schooler who takes her own life after experiencing severe bullying and sexual assault. While the show has been praised for bringing awareness to a widespread issue, it was also widely criticized for not addressing mental illness, which plays a major role in many cases of suicide.
Discussions about suicide cannot be left to teen dramas and after school specials. Everyone should learn to recognize the warning signs. The key to suicide prevention is early detection of suicidal tendencies and diligent action.
What are common signs that someone may be suicidal?
- Experiencing overwhelming sadness.
- Withdrawing from family and friends; seeking isolation.
- Voicing feelings of self-loathing, helplessness, and finality.
- Decreased energy; lack of interest in performing usual tasks.
- Exhibiting reckless behavior.
- Making preparations for suicide.
- Newfound peace and calmness.
What should you do if someone in your life is showing signs of suicidal thoughts?
- Create a non-judgemental safe space for them to share their thoughts, worries, and fears. Many individuals who consider suicide are convinced that they would not be missed if they were gone. It’s important to prove them wrong- not necessarily with your words, but with the support your presence provides them. Act as a shoulder to lean on whenever they may need it. Speak less and listen more- do not interrupt them, pick a fight, or invalidate their feelings of hopelessness. Check in with them frequently and show them that they are cared for. One true friend could be the reason they choose to continue on living.
- Provide them with professional resources. While your source of friendship is incredibly important, it is also critical you provide the person in your life with resources for experts in mental health and suicide prevention. Assist them in finding a mental health professional who specializes in depression and suicidal tendencies. Give them the number of a 24-hour suicide prevention hotline that provides support any place, any time. Offer to accompany them to doctor’s appointments or counseling sessions.
- Help them to make positive life changes. Invite them to join you on your morning jog. Find healthy and delicious meals to cook together each week. Encourage them to start journaling; getting bottled up feelings out on paper can prove very cathartic. Meditate together. Leading a healthy lifestyle has been proven to improve overall wellbeing.
- Never, ever promise confidentiality. You may think you are helping your loved one by promising to keep their suicidal thoughts a secret, but you are actually doing more harm than good. If their mental state worsens and you are forced to tell a third party when you promised you wouldn’t, they will feel betrayed and could be pushed farther to the edge.
- Don’t make it your responsibility to “cure” them. While you should do every reasonable thing in your power to help your loved one overcome their suicidal thoughts, you cannot aim to “fix” them. Many factors that are completely out of your hands can contribute to their depressive state, including bodily chemical imbalances. As difficult as it is, you must realize that you cannot get better for them- they must find the desire to continue living for themselves.
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Author: Mayeling Angelastro, MA is an Orlando Winter Park Bilingual Licensed Mental Health Counselor providing help to couples, families, couples, children and teenagers with offices in Winter Park and East Orlando. (407) 248-0030
Co-Author: Ashley Garrett (UCF Intern)