Suicide is the purposeful taking of one's own life. There are over 40,000 completed suicides in the United States each year. To put that number in perspective, 40,000 people would fill a VERY large sports arena, and is the population of an average American town. Suicide is completed by males three times as often as females, but attempted by females three times as often as males.
It is both a sad and encouraging fact that many suicides could have been (can be) prevented. Numerous studies reveal that people who commit suicide usually show clear signs of their intent beforehand, either in significant changes in behavior, previous attempts, or by actually expressing intentions of "ending it all." Because of these facts, it is clear that any expression of suicidal thoughts or actions should be taken seriously.
The vast majority of individuals who complete suicide do NOT actually want to die. What they DO want is an end to the pain, suffering, sadness, loss and despair they experience. They want a solution or an answer, and taking their own life was the best option they believed they had.
Although suicide occurs among all ages, cultures, and levels of income, there are some known risk groups in which suicide is more prevalent. This includes the elderly, teens, and college student. Reasons given for suicide (based on studies of suicide notes) include depression, poor health, loss of income, loss of loved ones, failure, pressure to succeed, intense guilt, and revenge.
Here are some known danger signs that may indicate that someone intends on harming themselves, or that someone is at high risk for contemplating suicide
MYTHS about suicide:
People who say they are going to kill themselves are not really serious.
NOT TRUE: Many people who have committed suicide have given clear signs of their intent beforehand.
People who commit suicide are crazy or insane.
NOT TRUE: Many people who kill themselves are only looking for a solution to unbearable problems. Most are quite sane.
Talking about suicide with someone may make them do it.
ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE: People who are considering suicide NEED to talk to people about their feelings and thoughts.
Suicidal people really want to die.
NO. They want solutions or answers. They want their pain, suffering, guilt or depression to be relieve
Nothing will stop someone once they decide to kill themselves.
UNTRUE: Many suicides are preventable.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU WANT TO HELP SOMEONE WHO IS CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE:
LISTEN ATTENTIVELY TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY: Tell the person you want to hear what they are thinking about, and what they are feeling. If you don't know how to respond to what they say, just tell them "I really don't know what to say, but I want to listen and help." It's OK not to have all the answers. It's important that you listen.
BE DIRECT: Ask them, in a very straight forward manner, what is wrong. Why are they thinking about doing this? What are they going through? Who have they told? How have they tried to solve the problem?
DON'T GIVE EASY ANSWERS: Don't say things like, "Don't worry, time heals all wounds" or "Things will get better. You'll see." The person has already tried all the easy solutions and they have not worked. It's perfectly OK to tell the person that you don't have the answer, as long as you are a good listener and care about what they are saying. Also, don't sidestep the issue or change the subject if they are willing to talk.
DON'T LEAVE THE PERSON ALONE: Stay with the person until help can arrive. Tell them that you would rather stay with them if they request to be alone. If possible, remove any unsafe objects or substances in the vicinity.
STAY CALM: Don't yell at the person, put them down, or raise your voice. It's OK to tell the person that you are nervous or scared about the things they are saying.
TELL SOMEONE: You MUST tell someone who can do something about the situation. Contact the person's family, spouse, brother, sister, Priest, Rabbi, Pastor, the police, campus security, therapist, teacher, caretaker or anyone who can get help immediately. Tell the person that you will be there to help them call someone if they want to do it themselves.
DO NOT KEEP A SECRET: Never tell the person that you are willing to "keep a secret". You will NOT be helping the person unless you tell someone who can help (see previous item).
DON'T FEEL RESPONSIBLE: If the worst should happen at some later time, even after you have tried the suggestions above, don't feel responsible. You DID help the person, but the difficulties were beyond what you could possibly have prevented in the short time involved. You did not fail in helping.