Suicide is among the scariest words in our language; it inspires an immediate horror among the family and friends of the victim. People frequently experience a gut-wrenching dread, denial, shock, fear … and even guilt.
It is a word so charged with universal dread, guilt and burning emotion that people will avoid talking about it almost at all costs. It has become an intractable taboo.
We must discuss it, however, because the statistics are staggering: In 2001 suicide was the 11th ranked cause of death in the United States, but shockingly, it was the third leading cause of death for 10-23 year olds.
One group in the United Kingdom which provides confidential emotional support for those suffering from a crisis estimates that more than 100,000 people attempt suicide each year there. And, of these attempts, over 6,500 will eventually succeed.
Even worse, some estimate that as many as 20% of those who suffer from bipolar disorder will succeed in killing themselves. NOTE: One out of every five!
It has also been estimated that as many as 50% of all bipolar patients may attempt suicide at least once in their lives. This appalling figure shows the urgency required to properly screen, diagnose and treat the suicide-prone patient.
Therefore, it is as clear as a flashing neon sign that suicide is not something to be cavalierly ignored; it is not going away. As socially responsible family members and friends, each of us must make a commitment to be aware of the warnings signs of suicide-prone despair.
We must do our duty by being prepared to help a friend or family member in crisis. But to do so, we must be able to identify that cry for help for what it is-desperation and not be quick to cavalierly trivialize it.
Please note the following warning signs and red flags. You may just save the life of a loved one.
Situational Red Flags
1. Victim of Sexual, Emotional or Verbal Abuse
2. Sudden or Unexpected Death of a Loved One
3. A Terminal Illness Accompanied by Drastic Deterioration in Quality of Life
4. Sudden Detrimental Change in Financial Status
5. A Condition of Chronic Debilitating Pain with No Relief in Sight
6. Talk about the Possibility of Suicide
7. Extraordinary Withdrawal or Sullen Behavior
8. Traumatic Loss or Disintegration of a Relationship
2. Feelings of Futility
3. Oppressive Feelings of Guilt
4. Pervasive Melancholia or Sadness
5. Feelings of Hopelessness or Helplessness
6. Overwhelming Gloom
Recovering from Depression!
Sometimes as a person begins to recover from a depressive episode the possibility of a suicide attempt may increase. This may happen because when a person finally makes up his mind to actually kill himself, he sometimes becomes oddly resigned and at peace with the situation; his mood can begin to elevate slightly.
Also, the depressive lethargy may start to lift, and where a person may not have been able to find the energy to carry out suicidal plans before, he now may have it. However, regardless of the reason, this can be a very crucial stage.
Behavioral Red Flags
1. Hoarding Prescription Drugs which Can be Lethal when taken En Masse
2. Obtaining Possession of a Weapon
3. Overt Attempts to Bring Closure to Personal or Business Issues
4. Sudden Attention to Ones Will
5. Increased Reading or Conversation about Suicide
6. Gifting Away Personal Belongings
7. Reconciling with those who are Estranged
8. Sudden Interest or Attention in Ones Insurance Policy
9. Excessive Withdrawal or Isolation from Others
Thoughts and Comments to Note
1. I wish I had never been born
2. This life is a pile of crap.
3. I wonder what the best way to kill yourself would be.
4. My kids are the only thing I live for.
5. I can not see any way to get out of this mess.
6. Nothing ever gets any better
7. Nothing is worth living for.
8. I just do not care about anything anymore.
Of course, none of these signs by themselves are absolute proof that someone you know may be considering suicide. Any of these may be present individually, and a person still may have given little or no thought to suicide.
However, if any clusters of these are present take particularly strong note.
It is also possible that a person may give little if any, warning of thoughts of impending suicide and still attempt it.
So, how can you be sure? Ask directly. Share your observations tactfully and honestly. Be open to talking about this with your loved one.
Is it awkward? It certainly can be, but even more important, it could save the life of someone you love.
Writer: Dr Sheryl