Suicide – Let’s Talk About It
‘I didn’t see it coming, there were no signs.’ How often do we hear this or similar phrases after someone we know has attempted or completed a suicide? The truth is there were probably signs; but we do not recognise them as ‘signs’. This is not our fault, we have never been taught to recognise and respond to these signs. Learning to recognise these signs and knowing what to do after you recognise them are useful skills to learn. There are workshops that you can attend to get a full understanding. One of these workshops is SAFETalk by Living Works.
Some behaviours that might be signs of suicidal thought:
Giving personal belongings away. This can be a way that people who are thinking about suicide say goodbye.
Withdrawal from friends, family and activities that usually interested them.
Risky behaviour – drinking and driving, multiple causal sexual partners, drug use, neglecting obligations and responsibilities, extreme shopping sprees, etc.
Self-mutilation such as cutting can be a way to try and release the emotional pain.
Sleep, appetite, libido and mood changes.
Depression and hopelessness.
Some phrases that could be signs of suicidal thoughts:
“I don’t need these things.”
“You/They would be better off without me.”
“No one can help me.”
“I’ve found an answer/solution.”
“I can’t do anything right.”
“I’m tired of trying.”
“Now I know what people who have no hope (or completed a suicide) felt like.”
“There’s no point…”
“I’m better now, I’ve decided on a plan.”
These are just a few things we can be more aware of when we are around people we care about. There are other phrases or behaviours that could be signs, trust your instincts, if you feel that something is not right you must take action. What action do you take? Ask the person if they are thinking about suicide. Do not be
afraid that by using the word ‘suicide’ you are planting the idea in their mind. Rather be direct and show the person that you are not afraid to talk about these scary thoughts they are having. You can explain why you are asking by highlighting some of the behaviours that have made you concerned. For example, “Are you thinking about suicide? I am asking because you said that no one would miss you if you were gone.”
This shows the person that you have heard and seen them, it validates their emotions. It is vital that you do not judge or show judgement. Listen to the person talk, show them empathy and support. Do not leave this person alone. You will need to help them get help. This help could be phoning a helpline, visiting their doctor, seeing a counsellor or therapist, going to a hospital or clinic. Often the person may ask you to keep this a secret; you cannot do this. You need to get them to help so that they remain safe. You do not have to solve their problems; you simply have to listen and support them and get them help.
Help lines you can contact:
LifeLine; SADAG; various counsellors; psychologists; hospitals.
By Amy Pieterse