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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Suicide - know the warning signs

Last week, I talked about helping those dealing with grief. Today, I want to make sure you all know the warning signs and what to do if you suspect someone you know may be considering suicide.

I knew 2 people who committed suicide. This is a very personal issue for me, and it's a growing problem among young people.

I'm just going to copy and paste the statistics I found on this website. I checked several places, and they were all giving these same numbers:
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens.
  • Suicide is second leading cause of death in colleges.
  • For every suicide completion, there are between 50 and 200 attempts.
  • CDC Youth Risk Survey: 8.5% of students in grades 9-12 reported a suicide attempt in the past year.
  • 25% of high-school students report suicide ideation.
  • The suicide attempt rate is increasing for youths ages 10-14.
  • A recent survey of high-school students found that almost 1 in 5 had seriously considered suicide; more than 1 in 6 had made plans to attempt suicide; and more than 1 in 12 had made a suicide attempt in the past year.
Let that soak in a minute. 1 in 4 high school students report thinking about suicide. More than 8 out of every hundred high school students attempt suicide each year. That means this issue it is at your local high school.

My husband is a student minister, and I'm shocked and saddened by how many times this issue has come up since he started his job. Kids are thinking about it, and they're not telling their parents.

It's important to realize that there is no one "type" of person who attempts suicide, either. My brother was very intelligent. He was in the ROTC honor guard, an engineering major in college, had a great group of friends and was one of the funniest people I ever knew.

He was absolutely one of the last people I would suspected was suffering from depression. He hid it. Very well. 

Parents, grandparents, friends and ministers - don't wait for them to bring it up to you. A person who is hurting that bad doesn't even know how to reach out. Ask, then listen. Listen some more. Read between the lines.

Signs a person may be  considering suicide:
Lack of interest in activities
Withdrawing from family or friends
Experiencing dramatic mood changes
Suddenly performing poorly at work or school
Giving away prized posessions
Changing sleep habits
Changing eating habits

To me, all of those seem fairly obvious that something's wrong, except maybe the giving away prized possessions. Here are some of the ones I've heard others say, or that I've unfortunately had to see in hindsight.

-If a person is sleeping all the time, he/she needs to be asked what's going on. It could be anything, but it could be depression.
-If a person asks questions about suicide "for a friend", he/she could very well be considering it. For example, they may tell you that they have a friend considering suicide, or they know someone who did it, and want to know if that person is in heaven. (This happened to us with Ryan.)
-If a person who was acting down suddenly starts acting like a load has been taken off, or suddenly seems almost manic, it could be that he/she has decided to commit suicide and all of the pressure that was there is suddenly lifted. This is a scary and easy to miss symptom.
-Any kind of "tying up lose ends" such as emptying out a locker or even suddenly cleaning up/cleaning out ones belongings without explanation. 
-Intense perfectionism can cause a person to want to commit suicide to escape the pressure. (I believe this was the case with my brother, Daniel.)

What to do if you suspect someone you love is considering suicide

Never, ever, take a suicide comment lightly.

If you suspect someone is thinking about suicide, ask, listen, and act.

Ask how he/she is doing. You may even need to be up front and Ask if they are considering hurting themselves.

Listen attentively. I don't care what appointment you have to be at or even if the baby is hungry or you have to pee, listen. Listen and look for any warning signs.

Act on what you hear. If the person says yes, he or she is considering suicide, the first thing you do is ask if he/she has made a plan.

If he or she says yes, you call the police immediately and tell them where you and the person you are calling about are. Do not assume you can talk someone out of committing suicide. Do not assume he/she is not serious. Better safe than sorry.

If he or she says no there is no plan in place, you contact the closest friend or family member and personally help them find professional counseling. See it through and follow up.

Please, if you have any young people in your life, don't assume they are doing okay. It's hard to be an adolescent these days, and I know communicating with them can be hard, but do everything that you can.

I know that these past couple of posts have been pretty dark, but I feel an obligation to share what I've learned the hard way. I will return to writing more upbeat information posts from here on out, though.

Are there any other signs you can think of that I may have missed?

1 comment:

  1. One moment, I'll post mine soon. just wanted to say I love your new site!