Recognizing and responding to suicide warning signs

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Nearly 600 Utahns die from suicide every year, while more than 4,500 people in the state make the attempt. COVID-19 has driven people around the world into social isolation, raising concerns that these numbers will rise.

Loneliness can be a risk factor for suicidal behavior, and adding physical isolation can amplify these feelings and put a person in greater danger of becoming suicidal. Fortunately, suicidal thoughts are not a death sentence, and tragedy can be prevented.

Here are some things you should know about what to do if you or someone you know is considering suicide:

Warning signs

Sudden changes in a person’s life could increase the likelihood of them feeling suicidal. Losing a job, breaking up with a significant other or experiencing the death of a loved one are common instigators. Sometimes, the warnings are obvious, like threatening self-harm or making plans to do so. Other, less obvious signs include changes in behavior, depression or a loss of interest in things that were once prioritized. A person at risk for suicide may also engage in reckless behavior or stop caring for themselves.

How to help

If you believe someone you know is suicidal, take the red flags seriously. Talk to them about how they feel and find out if they are in danger. If necessary, seek medical attention immediately. Be there for them and help them get the assistance they need. If you’re afraid of making things worse by addressing the issue, don’t be: Talking about what is going on will not increase a person’s risk of harming themself. Just being there for someone can show them they have a support network they did not know they had.

Resources

While you shouldn’t be afraid to lend a helping hand, you also should not try to do it alone. You can be a great support for a friend or loved one, but you likely do not have the training to deal with mental health issues on your own. Luckily, there are many resources that can help. Professionals can give vital short-term and long-term assistance, and support is available for people with mental health needs.

“If you are feeling suicidal, or know somebody who is, don’t ignore it or wait for the feelings to subside,” says Sarah Hilton, a registered nurse. “Take advantage of professional resources and get help right away.”

Suicide can be a frightening subject for people struggling with mental health issues and their loved ones, especially in the midst of this epidemic. Talking about the issue can help family members identify risks and give people the tools they need to provide support. With the right support, we all can get through this.

A version of this article was published by The Daily Herald. It has been republished here with permission.

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About Author

I am the CEO of Osmond Marketing and specialize in healthcare marketing. My doctorate is in communication, which means that I draw from the areas of psychology, sociology, and the humanities to understand the emotional and spiritual side of health.

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