To commit suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Feeling suicidal or having thoughts about committing suicide is always serious- that goes for fleeting thoughts about suicide up to having a detailed plan set out on how to commit suicide. About 1 in 10 deaths in SA are by people committing suicide. It is scary, but if we know what to look for and what to do, we can prevent suicide. Feeling suicidal shouldn’t be kept a secret. It is crucial to reach out for help.
People who are thinking about suicide often have the same feelings and thoughts: they feel alone isolated and hopeless; they believe no one understands them; they assume they are a burden to their families. It is symptoms of an underlying problem – and often there are more than one problem. The good news is that suicide can be prevented.
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand provided the following tips on coping with suicidal thoughts.
- Try to remember that thoughts about killing yourself are just thoughts. You don’t have to act on them, no matter how overwhelming they are or how often you have them. You won’t always have these thoughts.
- Remove anything that you could use to harm yourself, or ask others to do this with or for you.
- Make a “distraction box” – fill it with things that provide comfort, remind you of the good things in your life, and help lift your mood. You can include anything meaningful and helpful to you, e.g. a book, photos, letters, poems, music, notes to yourself, a toy, perfume, jokes etc.
- Get a good amount of sleep, rest and exercise, and eat regularly.
- Try to avoid drinking alcohol or taking non prescription or recreational drugs. They can change the way you think and feel, mostly in unhelpful ways.
- If you’re taking prescribed medications for an illness (whether it be a physical illness or a mental health problem), don’t stop taking them without talking to your doctor first.
- Talk to someone you trust about what’s on your mind, whenever you need to. Keep a list of phone numbers of people you could call. If you’re not sure who you can talk to, try phoning a helpline or texting a text counselling service.
- Spend time with people who you like and trust.
- Take time off work if you need to. Your doctor can help arrange this.
- Write down your feelings. Keeping a journal or diary can help you understand what you’re thinking or feeling, or how you’re reacting to situations in your life. It can also make it easier for you to find different solutions to any problems you’re facing.
- Think about what kind of help you may need when you feel unwell. You may want friends to visit you, or help you with the shopping or cooking. Let people know, so they can do their best to support you.
- Learn from others – reading about other people who have managed difficult times can be inspirational. Recommended reading is Lost Connections by Johann Hari.
- Make a plan for recovery – write down what helps you to feel better about yourself, or what helps you when you’re feeling distressed. This might include going for a walk, or talking to someone you trust. Refer back to your plan when you need to.
- Be kind to yourself – just as your suicidal thoughts took time to appear, so it will take a while for them to fade. Live from day to day and don’t expect too much of yourself.
Even if you can’t see a way forward now, you can be certain that the way you are thinking and feeling about things will change.
What people close to a suicidal person need to know
1. People who die by self-death usually talk about it first. They are in pain and oftentimes reach out for help because they do not know what to do and have lost hope.
2. Always take talk about ”feeling suicidal” seriously.
3. People who talk about wanting to die by suicide often times do kill themselves.
4. Suicide can be prevented. Most people who are suicidal do not want to die; they just want to stop their pain.
5. To feel suicidal can happen to anyone.
6. People who attempt suicide and survive will oftentimes make additional attempts.
7. Telling them that they “just want something” or “are trying to manipulate” is both insensitive and ignorant.
8. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24. Sometimes children younger than 10 years old die by suicide.
9. Oftentimes people who die by suicide are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
10. Untreated mental illness (including depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and others) is the cause for the vast majority of suicides.
11. Some people die by suicide because of a depression that was caused by genetics.
What are the warning signs of suicide?
- Talking or joking about suicide
- Preparing for death
- Changes in personality
- Loss of interest in appearance, drop in hygiene
- Risk taking behaviour
- Excessive feelings of guilt
- Suddenly feeling better
- Writing poems, essays about death, SMS’s or painting images of death.
What causes a person to commit self-death?
It is very rare that someone dies by suicide because of one cause. Thus, there are usually several causes, and not just one, for suicide.
Some of the negative life experiences that may cause depression, and some other causes for depression, include:
- The death of a loved one.
- A divorce, separation, or breakup of a relationship.
- Losing custody of children, or feeling that a child custody decision is not fair.
- A serious loss, such as a loss of a job, house, or money.
- A serious or terminal illness.
- A serious accident.
- Chronic physical pain.
- Intense emotional pain.
- Loss of hope.
- Being victimized (domestic violence, rape, assault, etc).
- A loved one being victimized (child murder, child molestation, kidnapping, murder, rape, assault, etc.).
- Physical, verbal or sexual abuse.
- Unresolved abuse (of any kind) from the past.
- Feeling “trapped” in a situation perceived as negative.
- Feeling that things will never “get better.”
- Feeling helpless.
- Serious legal problems, such as criminal prosecution or incarceration.
- Feeling “taken advantage of.”
- Inability to deal with a perceived “humiliating” situation or perceived ”failure”.
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse.
- A feeling of not being accepted by family, friends, or society.
- A horrible disappointment.
- Feeling like one has not lived up to his or her high expectations or those of another.
- Bullying. (Adults, as well as children, can be bullied.)
- Low self-esteem.
Is it possible to determine the risk level of someone that feels suicidal?
”I am not as okay as I pretend to be.”
As a general rule, the level of danger suicidal people present to their own lives increases dramatically as they progress along the steps towards suicide. This is to say, a person’s risk goes up as he/she moves from:
LEVEL 1: thinking about suicide (e.g., suicidal ideation)
LEVEL 2: planning their suicide
LEVEL 3: collecting the necessary equipment
LEVEL 4: actually trying to commit suicide.
The earlier in this progression they can be identified and helped, the better.