According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, in the year 2020, over 14 thousand people died as a result of suicide in the United States alone. Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death and an average of 130 suicides occur per day.
These statistics are staggering, and especially heartbreaking if you have lost someone to suicide. While suicide is a tragedy and families and friends deserve due respect, it’s also important to take action to prevent suicide in the future and increase awareness on this sensitive and significant topic.
If you have lost someone you love or a person close to you has made a suicide attempt, you’re likely wondering about the next steps in how to help prevent suicide. When you’re ready to start understanding this heart-wrenching epidemic, here are ways you can intervene.
Understand how to address someone after an attempt
Suicide is a deeply personal and scary event. If you know someone who is recovering from a suicide attempt, you’ll want to do your research to understand the best way to interact and respond. Depending on the closeness of your relationship, you’ll have a different role to play.
Regardless of your relationship, here are a few guidelines to follow.
- Respect your loved one’s wish to keep silent or share details
- Allow yourself to process on your own, instead of with or in front of your loved one
- Don’t react out of a place of strong emotions, like anger
- Express your intent to support your loved one
- Express that you know the situation is difficult and you’re ready to help whenever your loved one is ready to accept it
Understanding how to address someone after a suicide attempt isn’t an easy step, but your support could open the door to healing.
2. Support professional intervention
Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use disorders and other conditions that can lead to suicide are best addressed by licensed and professional medical and mental health care providers. You should never feel a personal responsibility for treating or “fixing” a person’s suicidal inclinations.
If your loved one has attempted suicide or you think you have noticed warning signs, immediate intervention is your best bet. Many facilities offer in-patient care with round-the-clock supervision. This ensures safety for the duration of the program until a stable state is reached. Your loved one will also be connected to continuing services automatically after partaking in a residential program.
3. Learn the warning signs of suicide
While you might notice that your loved one has been acting differently, the warning signs of suicide might not always be obvious. Many people who attempt suicide do not tell anyone of their plans beforehand, so it’s important to be on the watch for these signs if your loved one is at risk of taking his or her own life.
- Talking about dying or “not being here”
- Seeking supplies to use to commit suicide
- Expressing feelings of hopelessness
- Giving away belongings
- Isolating from others
- Exhibiting reckless or self-destructive behavior
- Experiencing a sudden sense of calm or happiness (which can indicate that the person has made the decision to commit suicide)
The warning signs of suicide are often subtle, which is why it’s important for those closest to the vulnerable person to be aware of the signs. An acquaintance may be unable to notice the changes you can easily spot in your friend or family member.
4. Know how to access immediate help
In emergencies, it’s best to call 911. If your friend is about to attempt suicide, has an imminent plan or has already taken steps to carry out a plan, the sooner you call for help the better. Calling for aid will not trigger a suicide attempt if a person is already set on following through, so there’s no reason to hesitate if the situation arises.
There are also resources you can access in circumstances that are less pressing. Try reaching out to the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can access real-time support for suicide prevention, free of charge at any time. It’s in your best interest to save the number in your phone and have it available if your loved one ever comes to you for help.
5. Evaluate the Danger
Use the following questions to evaluate whether you think your loved one needs immediate attention from emergency services.
- Do you have a plan?
- Do you have what you need to carry out your plan?
- Do you know when you would do it?
- Do you intend to take your own life?
When a person has a plan, the means to carry out their plan has a timeframe for when they would do it, and intends to take their own life, they are at the highest risk for committing suicide. Always err on the side of caution. If you have any concerns someone you know is considering suicide, call 911.
Respond to the warning signs of suicide
Remove any potential means the person may use to commit suicide, and reach out to a suicide helpline for advice on how to help your loved one. Encourage your loved one to enter therapy to discuss their problems and begin to develop a plan for addressing them. Continue reaching out to your loved one by phone, text, and in person after the immediate crisis has passed.
If you are looking for professional help for a loved one who is suicidal, consider The Light Program. Check out our programs to see how we can help today.