Suicide prevention is possible, and it starts with being able to read the warning signs. If you think that a family member, child or friend is in danger, then this is a good time to take a quick look at the signs, facts and ways you can recognise and help anyone close to you who might be at risk.
Each year organisations like the South Africa Depression And Anxiety Group (SADAG) highlight the issue of suicide, and most importantly, how to prevent it. In South Africa there are 23 suicides a day recorded and 230 serious attempts.
What’s happening in this person’s life?
Sometimes a person has experienced traumatic changes in their life, such as:
- A change in circumstances (separation/ divorce, retirement, redundancy, children leaving home)
- The recent loss of a loved one, a job, a relationship, a pet)
- A major disappointment
- Physical injury, illness or a mental disorder
- The suicide of a family member, friend or a public figure
- Legal or financial problems
- A traumatic experience such as rape, a fire or accident
Warning signs to look out for
- Talking or joking about committing suicide
- Saying things like “I wish I could disappear forever,” “I’d be better off dead,” or “there’s no way out”
- Romanticising dying, such as “If I died, people might love me more”
- Writing poems and stories about death, dying, or suicide
- Engaging in reckless behaviour or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
- Giving away personal possessions, or saying goodbye to friends and family as if it’s for the last time
- Seeking out weapons, pills, or other ways to kill themselves
What should I do in a crisis?
DO broach the subject if you think someone is experiencing troubling symptoms, and don’t be afraid to ask what they’re thinking, or if they’re considering suicide. If you know their friends or family members, then make sure they understand what’s going on.
What you can say that helps:
It’s incredibly difficult to know what to say in a situation like this, but comforting, thoughtful and empathetic words can help. For example:
- You’re not alone in this, I’m here for you
- I understand you have a real illness, and that’s what’s causing these thoughts and feelings
- You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change
- I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help
- When you want to give up, tell yourself to hold on for just one more day, hour or minute – whatever you can manage
- You’re important to me, your life is important to me.
If someone has attempted suicide
- In an acute crisis, take the person to an emergency room or walk-in clinic
- Don’t leave the person alone until help is available
- Remove razor blades, pills, firearms, scissors or anything else that could be used for a suicide attempt
- If you can’t manage the above options, call your local emergency numbers
After the crisis
- If a person’s been give prescription medication to take, make sure they take it exactly as prescribed
- Report any unexpected side effects to a doctor
- Continue to offer support after treatment has been started, and even if they’re starting to get better
Visit SADAG for more information.