A global pandemic, social injustice, environmental impacts and so much more — with everything happening this year, our mental health is taking a toll. In honor of World Mental Health Day, SEEN breaks down how to recognize warning signs and help prevent suicide in those who may be struggling
By Karin Katz
World Mental Health Day was commemorated on October 10, but fighting for mental health — an effort that includes suicide prevention — is something we need to do all year long. Especially these days, when the suicide rate has climbed an astounding 35 percent since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 48,344 people died by suicide in 2018, up from 47,173 the year before.
In many cases, people who feel suicidal are dealing with conditions that will often pass in time if the right medical treatment is received. But in the meantime, it’s so important to know the warning signs; doing so can save someone’s life.
Know the Signs
When someone is suicidal, s/he may display the following signs:
- Feeling hopeless
- Talking about death or suicide
- Saying they are a burden to everyone
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Losing interest in normally enjoyed activities
- Experiencing extreme mood swings
- Giving away loved possessions
- Saying goodbye to family, friends and co-workers
What Can Be Done
1. Listening to what is being said without judgement is often one of the most important things you can do for someone — especially someone suffering from severe depression. No matter how severe you consider someone’s problems, what matters is how serious they perceive them to be and whether they consider suicide to be a valid option.
2. Being a supportive listener can make all the difference in the world. Listening doesn’t require any special skills and more often than not, the person just wants to be heard rather than being offered solutions.
3. It’s very important to never dismiss any threats. If someone you know seems to be indicating that they are thinking of taking their own life, you should always take them seriously. It sounds counterintuitive, but people don’t always attempt suicide because they want to die — rather, it might be a cry for help.
4. Encouraging treatment by a mental health professional for someone who’s hurting can go a long way in saving lives.
5. If the person asks you not to say anything about their suicidal thoughts, be aware that you will have to break your promise. These kinds of secrets can kill and it’s better to have an angry friend who’s alive than one who is no longer here.
Help Is Out There
Help is always available and shared burdens become lighter. If you or someone you know someone is in crisis and needs immediate help, remember these resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (1-800-273-talk)
- Call 911
- Go to the nearest hospital emergency room
For more information visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org