I realise that Spring is nearly over, and that suicide attempts will fall, but that does not mean that they will cease. Suicides take place 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, which is why I feel that everyone should be able to recognise the warning signs of suicide, and know how to help those who may be about to take their life.
Over the last three weeks, we, Mind in Taunton and West Somerset, have taken more calls about suicide than we normally have in three months. These calls were made by people who were having suicidal thoughts or seriously thinking of taking their lives, and two who were actually in the process of taking their life; for the last two we called an ambulance. We also have had calls from people who were concerned that a loved one, friend or associate may be considering suicide, and they were not sure what to do.
Contrary to popular belief, suicide-rates rise in spring and early summer (April, May and June) and not winter, as many believe. There are many reasons for this, far too many to list here; but two of the reasons given are; the increase in daylight hours, and the increase in social interaction compared to the relative voluntary seclusion experienced in winter.
What are the signs that someone is feeling suicidal?
• they complain of feelings of hopelessness
• have episodes of sudden rage and anger
• act recklessly and engage in risky activities with an apparent lack of concern about the consequences
• talk about feeling trapped, such as saying they can’t see any way out of their current situation
• self-harm – including misusing drugs or alcohol, or using more than they usually do. Although it should be noted that some people use self-harming as a coping mechanism, and they do not intend to take their lives
• become increasingly withdrawn from friends, family and society in general
• appear anxious and agitated
• are unable to sleep or they sleep all the time
• have sudden mood swings – a sudden lift in mood after a period of depression could indicate they have made the decision to attempt suicide
• talk and act in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
• giving away their possessions
• lose interest in most things, including their appearance
• put their affairs in order, such as sorting out possessions or making a will
What can I do to help?
One of the best things you can do if you think someone may be feeling suicidal is to encourage them to talk about their feelings and to listen to what they say.
Talking about someone’s problems is not always easy and it may be tempting to try to provide a solution. However, often the most important thing you can do to help is to listen to what they have to say.
If there is an immediate danger, call an ambulance and make sure, they are not left on their own.
Do not judge
It is also important not to make judgements about how a person is thinking and behaving. You may feel that certain aspects of their thinking and behaviour are making their problems worse. For example, they may be drinking too much alcohol.
However, pointing this out will not be particularly helpful to them. Reassurance, respect and support can help someone during these difficult periods.
Asking questions can be a useful way of letting a person remain in control while allowing them to talk about how they are feeling. Try not to influence what the person says, but give them the opportunity to talk honestly and openly.
Open ended questions such as “Where did that happen?” and “How did that feel?” will encourage them to talk, it is best to avoid statements that could possibly end the conversation, such as “I know how you feel” and “Try not to worry about it”.
If you suspect someone may be at risk of suicide, it is important to ask him or her directly about suicidal thoughts. Do not avoid using the word ‘suicide’. It is important to ask the question without dread, and without expressing a negative judgment. The question must be direct and to the point. For example, you could ask:
• “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or
• “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
Remember; if you feel that someone may be about to take their life, you MUST call an ambulance. It is far better to save a life by taking action, than it is to lose a life through hesitation, or taking no action.
After the crisis has passed and the person is safe, get help and support for yourself.
Note: Much of this information has come from NHS choices Warning signs of suicide
Samaritans: 116 123 24 hrs National
Mindline: 01823 276 892 8pm till 11pm – Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sunday Somerset
Mindline Trans+ 0300 330 5468 Mondays and Fridays from 8pm to midnight South West
Mindline South Devon and Torbay 0300 330 5464 8pm till 11pm – Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun
LGBT+ helpline 0300 330 0630 10am-10pm every day National
If you have any questions please ring Mind TWS 01823 334 906 10am – 4pm Mon-Fri