Suicide is the leading cause of death for young people between the age of 13 to 28 years. Many people who have lost someone to suicide often share that they were surprised as the loved one or friend did not share about having problems. However, there are usually subtle signs that are present.
Here are some signs that you can look out for:
- Sudden drastic change in behavior (Could even be for the better, e.g suddenly very calm when the person has been emotionally volatile)
- Talks about dying, have no purpose in life, wants to end the suffering.
- Gives away prized possession or makes plans for the care of loved ones.
- Losses interest in hobbies and preferred activities
- Losses interest in personal appearance
- Exclude himself/herself from future plans
- Withdraws from social circle
- Signs of self-harm.
What can you do to help
You may want to approach your friend confidentially to understand what is happening in their life. You can look here on how to start such a conversation.
Take any suggestion of suicide and dying seriously. If your friend hints about suicide, this is what you could do.
(1) Clarify the intentions of your friend by asking direct, closed-ended questions.
Asking directly about the person’s intention will not cause the person to want to commit suicide. In fact, it presents an opportunity for the person to share what is the problem.
However if the person is hesitant to talk about it, Progressive Questioning may be better
Never promise to keep suicide intentions a secret. Tell your friend that their life matters and you need other people to help you as well. Try to get your loved one to speak with a professional counsellor, SOS or a trusted adult.
(2) Listen and show empathy for their problems
Listen attentively to what the person has to say and do not make light of the problems even as you try to persuade the person to keep living on. Usually a person who is suicidal has very confused thoughts and may not make perfect sense to you. Listen anyway. Sometimes, just listening without judgement and allowing a person to ventilate their feelings may help to turn the situation around.
At times, you may have to contradict the persons intention of wanting to die. A person who is saddled with problems can often be very confused. Say this as gently and as clearly as you can to that person.
(3) Delay the act of suicide -Future orientation
Help the person to look ahead and find things that they can look forward to. You could suggest doing some activity together on a specific date to delay the suicide plans that this person may have and to allow time for the person to get rational and professional help.
Do not leave the person alone if the situation is critical, stay with the person until help comes, such as an older family members or a more experienced person who can handle the situation. Remove all items that can be used for self-harm and suicide. You may have to cox the person to move to a safer location if the place presents risk to the person.
(4) Contact professional help and that persons family.
Provide immediate support and alert family and significant others related to the person. However, it takes professional training to help a suicidal person to get back on the right track.
Research has shown that almost 60% of those who complete suicide suffer from a mental condition. Suicide contemplation has a strong physical, biological component and hence requires professional help. Hospitalization and family support may be necessary to ensure that the person is kept safe in the process of recovery.
(5) Help your friend by creating a safety plan
A good way to delay suicide is to help your friend create a safety plan. Work through this plan with your friend and make sure this plan is readily available when your friends is feeling really suicidal. Ask your friend who are the trusted people who should also keep a copy of the plan so that everyone can refer to this plan and remind your friend about what to do in a crisis situation.
Here is more information for people who have suicidal thoughts. You may want to read this to have a better understanding of what can help a person who is struggling with such thoughts.
(6) Take care of yourself
Encountering and helping a person in such a critical situation can affect you emotionally. Make sure you have a self-care plan in place. Find a trusted adult to talk to or call a helpline to process your own thoughts and what you have experienced.
Information related to preventing suicide:
Organizations that can provide help:
SOS – Samaritans of Singapore
(24 hours, counselling for people in crisis, feeling suicidal or experiencing suicidal grief and loss)
Mental Health Helpline ( 24 Hours)
Get trained to prevent suicide