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If someone you know is at risk for suicide

Feeling suicidal is usually the result of a mood disorder, a biological condition which can cause intense sadness, hopelessness and despair. The more intense these feelings become, and the more often the person describes them as “unbearable,” the more likely it is that suicide may enter the person’s mind. Here are signs that may indicate that someone close to you is feeling suicidal:

  • talking about feeling suicidal or wanting to die
  • feeling hopeless, that nothing will ever change or get better
  • feeling helpless, that nothing one does makes any difference
  • feeling like a burden to family and friends
  • abusing alcohol or drugs
  • putting affairs in order (e.g., organizing finances or giving away possessions)
  • writing a suicide note
  • putting oneself in harm’s way, or in situations where there is a danger of being killed
  • experiencing anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
  • withdrawing from friends, family and society
  • experiencing dramatic mood changes
  • Important note: Many individuals have completed suicide after only a few of these symptoms had been noticed by others. ANY of these symptoms must be taken seriously.

What to do if someone is suicidal

  • Anyone who is thinking about committing suicide needs immediate attention, preferably from a mental health professional or a physician. Anyone who talks about suicide should be taken seriously.
  • Be available. Show interest and support.
  • Listen and accept the expression of feelings.
  • Don’t judge. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Don’t ask ‘why,’ this encourages defensiveness.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support from other people.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available, but do not offer glib reassurance; it only proves you don’t understand.
  • Be direct. Don’t be afraid to ask: “Do you sometimes feel so bad you think of suicide?
  • There is no danger of “giving someone the idea.” In fact, it can be a great relief to bring the question into the open, and discuss it freely, without showing shock or disapproval.
  • If the answer is “Yes, I do think of suicide,” you must take it seriously. Ask questions like: Have you thought about how you’d do it? Or when? Have you ever tried suicide before? If the person has a plan, the means are easily available, the method is a lethal one, and the time is set, the risk of suicide is very high. It is vital not to underestimate the danger.
  • Take action! Remove harmful means. Call a doctor, emergency room, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-SUICIDE or 911 to get immediate help. Make sure the person is not left alone

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