[Audio] Suicide Prevention: Warning Signs and Ways to Help
There's limited data that shows why people suffer from depression over the holidays, but one can reasonably assume that it's often a time where people who already feel isolated may feel more isolated, or see others who are more socially connected. Suicide prevention is a difficult topic, but an important conversation to have. On Sounds Good, Tracy Ross speaks with Murray State Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Michael Bordieri on ways to reach out and help people who may be struggling and some of the warning signs that might be displayed.
Talking About Suicide
Expressing ambivalence about life, talking about killing oneself, expressing no reason to live, feeling like a burden to others... when people share these sentiments, the best thing you can do is listen to them, help them validate their concerns and then connect or refer them to a mental health system that can help them.
Talking to someone about suicide can be a difficult conversation to have because it's hard for us to see people we care about in pain, Dr. Bordieri says. We're often quick to reassure: "Oh, no, it's okay, don't feel that way," and while offering reassurance can be a positive thing - letting them know we care, that they're meaningful, that there can be positive things in the future - it's important not to dismiss their pain. The best thing we can do is to immediately connect people with resources.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Many individuals experience these thoughts and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides trained counselors to talk to someone with these thoughts: call 800-273-TALK and a trained professional in the area is there to listen and to give resources to help one through a crisis.
People Who Don't Talk
For those who don't talk about suicide, look for significant changes in behavior, like withdrawing socially or significantly from activities, engagements or friendships. One can also observe 'settling affairs behavior,' where people say goodbye in a way that seems permanent. They may also exhibit risky or impulsive behavior. Suicide is often an impulsive act. When attempts are made, they tend to be impulsive. Also note an increase in substance abuse or other behaviors that could be warning signs.
What if You're the Final Contact
Don't handle it alone, Dr. Borideri says. Call 911 immediately. This is an extreme circumstance and the police and paramedics can help intervene right away. Often, suicide is more subtle. Thoughts of suicide are not uncommon, he says. 10 o 20 percent of individuals might experience these thoughts and most of the time they will not lead to suicide.
Holidays can be Helpful
Sometimes reaching out to others during the holidays can be an act that people who feel withdrawn. Acts of kindness like calling someone or buying them a cup of coffee can go a long way. While it may sound cliché, he says, simply reaching out to someone can be the greatest gift you can give.
These conversations are informational-only and should not be construed as any form of psychotherapy, counseling, diagnosis or treatment. Any health condition, including depression, should be evaluated and treated by a qualified professional in the context of an established professional relationship.