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Counseling and Resource Center

When Someone You Know...

...Might Be Suicidal

Suicide is one of those subjects that many of us feel uncomfortable discussing. If you're the one feeling suicidal, you may be afraid that you'll be judged or labeled "crazy" if you open up. Or maybe you're just convinced that no one could possibly understand. It's not much easier for concerned friends and family members, who may hesitate to speak up for fear that they're wrong or that they'll say the wrong thing.

The important thing to understand is that feeling suicidal is not a character defect, and it doesn't mean that a person is crazy, or weak, or flawed. It only means that the person has more pain than they feel capable of coping with. But help is out there. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life. So don't wait: reach out.

Common Misconceptions about Suicide

FALSE: People who talk about suicide won't really do it. 
Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like "you'll be sorry when I'm dead," "I can't see any way out," — no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

FALSE: Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy. 
Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They must be upset, grief-stricken, depressed or despairing, but extreme distress and emotional pain are not necessarily signs of mental illness.

FALSE: If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop them. 
Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, wavering until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want death; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.

FALSE: People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help
Studies of suicide victims have shown that more than half had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.

FALSE: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea. 
You don't give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.

Source: SAVE – Suicide Awareness Voices of Education

Suicide Warning Signs

Talking about suicide

Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as "I wish I hadn't been born," "If I see you again..." and "I'd be better off dead."

Seeking out lethal means

Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Preoccupation with death

Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.

No hope for the future

Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped ("There's no way out"). Belief that things will never get better or change.

Self-loathing, self-hatred

Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden ("Everyone would be better off without me").

Getting affairs in order

Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.

Saying goodbye

Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again.

Withdrawing from others

Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.

Self-destructive behavior

Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a "death wish."

Sudden sense of calm

A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to commit suicide.

Source: HelpGuide.org

When Talking with a Suicidal Person

Do:

But don’t:

Source: Metanoia.org

How Can I Help Someone I Know — or Even Myself?