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Suicide – Recognising the Warning Signs

Unfortunately, Ireland is a nation that has suffered from a high suicide rate throughout the years. Although almost everyone in Ireland has been affected by suicide in some shape or form, people still find it difficult to discuss this topic.

It can be very frightening when you realise that someone you know has been considering taking their own life. You may feel helpless and that there is nothing you can do. But by just letting the person know you are there for them is one positive step towards helping them through their time of need.

Below we look at some warning signs of suicide and suggest small steps you can take to help a person you are concerned about.

Warning Signs:

  • Isolating themselves from those around them
  • Giving away possessions
  • Self-Harming Behaviours
  • Engaging in Risky Behaviours
  • Talking/Threatening to hurt themselves
  • Talking about death/dying/how they would do it
  • Talking about feelings of hopelessness
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Saying goodbye to those around them/ Talking about going away
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Saying they have no reason for living/Life would be better without them

How to address the issue of suicide:

Be Upfront: Although it can be daunting to address the issue of suicide. Don’t be afraid to ask the person you are concerned about how they are feeling. It is important to use clear and exact language. An example of what you could say is “I have noticed that you seem really low recently and I am concerned for you. Are you thinking of ending your life?”

When someone is concerned about someone considering suicide, they often fail to ask them outright for two reasons. The first reason is that they are afraid that they will put the idea of suicide into the person’s head. The second reason that people are often afraid to ask is because they are afraid the answer will be yes, and they will not know how to deal with this information. It is vital to realise that by merely mentioning suicide to an individual you will not put the idea into their head. Thoughts of suicide tend to develop over a long period of time of feeling unhappy, not because someone mentions it.

Additionally, worrying that you will not be able to help someone is a valid concern, yet by simply asking them, you are showing them that you care for them. If the answer is yes, don’t panic. There is no one fool-proof response to use. Just take the time to listen to them and ensure they know you are there for them.

Get help. The person is going to need help, not just from you but from professionals. Think about people around them that can help in this situation; their close family, GP, mental health team.

Myth Surrounding Suicide

A big myth is that if someone talks about suicide then they will not take their own lives. This is untrue. The reality of it is that talking about suicide is one of the warning signs. So, if someone is discussing suicide, then you should ask them openly how they are feeling and if they are thinking of suicide. The person will most likely feel relieved that someone has asked them so directly as they may have wanted someone to speak about it but were too afraid to bring it up themselves. By asking them you are giving them the opportunity to discuss it and seek help.

Visit the National Office for Suicide Prevention for more helpful information and guidance on this topic: http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/Mental_Health_Services/NOSP/

Written by Nicola Keane, Assistant Psychologist


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