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Can You Recognize & Respond to Suicidal Cues?

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By Cynthia May, MA, LLP, EAC Clinical Specialist – We’ve all wondered if we missed signs of suicidal thoughts of others.  Frequently, others try to hide any indication about their thoughts of self-harm and feelings of despair.  This can be especially true with acquaintances and casual relationships (i.e., work relationships).  People who we closely interact with often, like our very close friends or family members, may show signs of depression by a change in their behavior or in the way they communicate with you.  These differences don’t always indicate depression, as pondering an important decision can create more introspection or less social interaction.

However, if you are concerned about someone’s overall mental health changes, there are general guidelines of particular behaviors and communications that may be helpful for you know.

According to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, warning signs that may mean someone is at risk include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated, behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

It can be hard to know what to do if someone is in crisis.  The Lifeline encourages the following tips to “Use the Do’s and Don’ts”:

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
  • Don’t ever dare him or her to do it!
  • Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Act. Remove their means, like weapons or pills.
  • Get help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention

If you have serious concerns about someone in your life, or if you recognize those signs in yourself, there is immediate help available.  A new easier nationwide three-digit phone number connects directly to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, designed by the Federal Communication Commission.  It’s a simple call or text to 988.  The 988 Lifeline provides 24 hour, 7 days a week, confidential support to people in suicidal crisis or mental health-related distress.  There’s no age requirement.

And for Veterans, service members, National Guard, Reserve members and all those who support them as well, just press “1” after the 988 number.  *For texts however, Veterans should continue to text the Veterans Crisis Lifeline short code:  838255

Always remember, there is hope.  There are people who care.  Every single one of us are unique, precious, and important.

Suicide is preventable if you follow some of these recommendations and become sensitive to the warning signs. Remember, EAC is here to help.  Call us at 1-800-227-0905 or email us at info@eaccares.com.

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