It has been widely reported in news media about recent deaths by suicide in the past few weeks. Reports such as these have a tendency to be sensationalized and possibly triggering for those who may be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts themselves. There is also evidence that news of celebrity deaths by suicide can lead to an increase in suicidal behaviour in the general public, a phenomenon known as the Werther Effect.
The link between depression and suicide
Depression can lead to feelings of deep despair, isolation, and hopelessness. It can make people lose interest in activities that they used to enjoy and cause them to think that life is no longer worth living. According to the American Association of Suicidology, depression is the number one psychiatric diagnosis most commonly associated with suicide; having said that, it is important to remember that not everyone who thinks about suicide has a mental disorder.
Suicidal behaviour is not attention-seeking behaviour
There is a commonly held myth that people who talk about suicide are looking for attention and won’t actually do it. The truth is that people who think about suicide often feel like there is no other option, and they may be reaching out for help and support by talking about it.
Suicide rarely occurs without warning
While some incidents of suicide can happen without warning, there are often verbal and non-verbal signs that can be seen if you know what to look for. The majority of those who attempt or complete suicide have communicated their plans to at least one other person.
Click here to read more about some common warning signs of suicide: https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/two-takes-depression/201709/risk-factors-and-warning-signs-suicide
What to do if someone you know is thinking about suicide
The most important thing you can do is listen. Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions, such as, “Are you thinking about suicide?” Contrary to popular belief, this will not ‘plant’ the idea in anyone’s mind; on the contrary, it may help to break down the stigma by showing that you’re not afraid to talk about it openly.
It’s important to take a non-judgmental stance when talking about suicide. Shaming or invalidating suicidal thoughts and hopeless feelings can cause a suicidal person to shut down and feel even more isolated. Avoid arguing, lectures, or attempts to ‘fix’ the problem.
Encourage your loved one to seek professional support in the form of a psychologist, psychiatrist, or mental health therapist. Remember that, while you can support someone who is thinking about suicide, you are not responsible for making that person “better” or solving all of their problems. It is up to each individual make a personal commitment to recovery.
What to do if you or someone you know is in crisis
Suicide prevention hotlines are not only there for people in crisis – they are also there for people who are supporting people in crisis. Crisis workers are specifically trained in suicide risk assessment and intervention and can offer advice and referrals to help you and your loved one.
A comprehensive list of international crisis support services is available here: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html