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Can You See Me: The Signs That Someone May Be Suicidal?

Around the world, someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds. The number of unreported cases is probably significantly higher, as not all suicides are recognized as such. The number of suicide attempts is also significantly higher: For every person who dies by suicide, there are between 10 and 20 people who attempt suicide.

How common are suicidal thoughts?

It isn't easy to estimate. Thoughts about life and death are part of the human being. Most people have had the desire to rest, die, or contemplate suicide at some point in their life without any intention of committing suicide. Concrete ideas about suicide differ from this: they include the wish to die.

If someone expresses the intention to commit suicide, this goes one step further: this can be a warning, and often there is already a specific plan for a suicide attempt. When there are suicidal thoughts, the frequency, duration, and intensity of these can vary greatly from person to person and from time to time. (1)

Risk factor's

Scientific studies confirm important factors related to suicide: if so-called risk factors are present, suicide occurs more frequently, while it is less common with protective factors. Existing risk factors cannot predict the occurrence of a suicide attempt in an individual case. If a person has many risk factors, it does not mean that they will commit suicide, but rather that they are at higher risk than people with fewer risk factors.

Warning signs

People who attempt suicide often show signs of suicide or announce the suicide attempt.

Warning signs of a suicide attempt can include

  • Express death wishes such as "I wish I weren't there anymore."

  • Withdrawing from friends and family

  • Lack of interest in activities that the person would otherwise enjoy.

  • Despair

  • Expression of anger or revenge.

  • New or increasing use of alcohol or other drugs

  • Increased risk behaviors, careless driving, unprotected sex

  • Research about life and death or suicide methods

  • Neglect of personal hygiene

  • Cancel an existing treatment (for example, psychotherapy)

  • Sudden mood swings: Sudden extreme joy or serenity after a long period of depression can indicate that a person has decided to commit suicide.

While many people will exhibit some of these behaviors throughout their lives without being suicidal, it is best to respond to the warning signs and talk to the person. (2)

What situations require special attention?

Stressful events can suddenly lead a person to a crisis, for example:

  • A dispute with a loved one

  • The appearance or recurrence of a serious illness (for example, cancer)

  • The death of someone close or admired

  • Side effects of medication

  • Loss of employment.

I have suicidal thoughts: What can I do?

Coping with suicidal thoughts depends on how strong those thoughts are. It is important to take your thoughts seriously and talk about them, that is, trust someone you trust (this could be telephone counseling, a crisis service, or a psychotherapist) and seek support.

It is necessary to be direct when describing and commenting on suicidal thoughts so that the other person knows how serious the situation is. In a suicidal crisis, it can easily happen that the available help options are overlooked. However, many different options can help in managing suicidal thoughts.

What are the treatment options for suicide?

Yes, it is possible to help people who are going through a suicidal crisis. Most people who have attempted suicide are, in retrospect, glad they survived. When it comes to supporting options, a distinction is made between acute crisis management and long-term treatment. If the suicidal crisis occurs as part of a mental illness, in addition to psychotherapeutic methods, pharmacological approaches (anxiolytics or antidepressants) are available.

Would you like to get involved in prevention? Visit Suicide Prevention Resource Center For ways to help!

Suicide Prevention Lifeline


The blog is written by :

Yvonne King, Intern MFT

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