Communication For Suicide Prevention: Creating A Safe Space
By: Pritika Mehta
Communication for suicide prevention and spreading awareness about mental health is equally important. They are similar to each other in a lot of ways. Spreading awareness about mental health is an ongoing process and is yet to create major changes. The ongoing pandemic has not only increased physical illnesses but has also affected the mental health of people.
Mental Health as a topic is surrounded by stigma and is refused to be talked about. Under the pretext of something that doesn’t exist, it is deemed as a sensitive topic that should not be discussed or even mentioned.
Often treated as a taboo, it becomes difficult to deal with situations arising from these illnesses and raises the risk of suicidal intentions among the people who are going through a mental struggle. They regularly find themselves alone and misunderstood.
No doubt, suicide is a sensitive topic to discuss among friends or family. However, it is important for there to be communication for suicide prevention and a safe place for people to indulge in such conversations. The topic needs to be addressed despite the uncomfortable feeling.
Suicide is not a mental disorder on its own but rather one of the consequences of going through certain mental disorders like depression or mood disorder, bipolar disorder, eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, and more. The chances of people going through these disorders are more likely to take the step towards suicide and participate in self-harm behaviour.
Through this article, we’ll take you through a series of identifying signs of a possibly suicidal person and how to approach the situation appropriately.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
1. Depression or unusually long periods of sadness
- Having depression has a huge impact on a person’s thought process, their life seems bleak and pointless in that moments. It can lead to disastrous results if left untreated.
2. Feeling of hopelessness
- Mental health affects the thought process of the person, leading to a sense of hopelessness. As it is rare for people to show support towards mental health issues, it adds to the person’s distress.
3. Isolating from everyone including family
- Withdrawing from people around them becomes habitual among people going through mental health issues. They feel that no one understands them, and they are alone in this.
4. Terrible mood swings
- Severe emotional turbulence, either happy or sad or even angry. These mood swings often come and go in small periods, change rapidly.
5. Sudden abuse of substances
- Substance abuse is one of the common signs of someone going through distress in life. Taking to alcohol or drug use is one of the ways for people to cope with the emotional stress.
6. Careless attitude
- For example, rash driving or heavy drinking. Not taking care of their health and resorting to unhealthy coping methods.
7. Talk about ending their life, or death quite often
- They might start talking about death quite often. Some people directly or indirectly do mention their desire to commit suicide to people around them. Those comments are frequently just dismissed as dark humour.
8. Experiencing extreme anxiety
- There is a sudden increase in the state of anxiety, and they might even suffer through panic attacks.
9. Losing pleasure in daily activities
- Depression often makes people lose interest in the daily activities, and they ultimately stop doing things that make them happy.
10. In possession of harmful substance or object
- Harmful substance include alcohol, drugs, or poison. Objects can range from sharp objects to heavy objects.
11. Extreme self-criticism
- Going through mental health problems has a huge impact on a person’s self-esteem. They become hard on themselves and criticise their own self on small things.
12. Feel like a burden to other people
- This is a common thought for people who have suicidal ideation. They feel that they are making things difficult for people around them.
13. Talking about how they should have never been born
- Existential Nihilism is also a symptom that is common in individuals with suicidal tendencies.
14. Changes in personality and behaviour
- Going through a mental struggle is a difficult journey and changes a person completely. Their personality takes a turn for the worse and their behaviour changes to show their despair. People with suicidal ideation or intent often stop taking care of themselves because they see no point in doing that.
15. Going through a rough time in their life or facing a crisis
- For example, death of loved one, loss of job, death of a pet, relationship breakups, severe financial problems, family issues, and more. These events have a major impact on a person’s life and can result in mental distress.
16. Giving away with their prized possessions
- They feel their life has no meaning left. Those once prized possessions don’t mean anything to them.
17. Bidding goodbyes as if they were saying it for the final time
- Constantly thinking about death – suicidal individuals often talk to the people around them as if they are leaving, or interacting with loved ones as if it were last time.
18. Extreme weight gain or sudden weight loss
- Changes in daily appetite. Some people may not eat at all and some people may over-eat to compensate for their low feeling. This also results in eating disorders which affects the mental state even more.
19. Changes in sleeping pattern
- Sleeping is a form of coping method too for some people. It is either insomnia or sleeping too much.
20. They don’t see a future for themselves
It is not an exhaustive list, everyone shows their distress in their own way, and it is important to be attentive and observe the people around you.
Who is Most Likely at Risk of Committing Suicide?
- Elderly people who have either lost their partner or are going through a difficult time.
- Experience substance abuse disorder
- Suffered teasing or bullying in school/college or place of work
- Loss of job/Unemployment or going through financial crisis
- Suffering through a terminal illness or a chronic illness
- May have been in an accident and obtained severe brain injuries
- People who have experienced trauma in early life or any form of child abuse
- Suffering abuse in their current life situation
- Having a history of past suicidal attempts
- A history of suicide within the family
- People with extremely low self-esteem are also easy prey to depression and thoughts of suicide
- Being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community but without any support from the friends or family.
Importantly, please note that this is not an exhaustive list, every individual is different and may suffer through situations that are unknown to us.
How do I Approach Someone Who I know is Suicidal?
Communication for suicide prevention is a serious topic and should be dealt with in proper care.
- While initiating a conversation, be open and ask them about their emotional state. It is OKAY to ask someone about their suicidal thoughts.
- Do not dismiss their claims of suicidal ideations or intent of committing suicide. People often try to shut down their thoughts in a way to try and get them to stop thinking about them. By doing that, you are dismissing their emotional suffering, you are telling them their pain doesn’t matter. It does more harm than help the person.
- Sometimes, people with suicide ideations are only waiting to be heard. You just need to listen to them and understand. You don’t even have to respond or give any advice. Hear them out.
- Encourage them to try and talk to someone who they trust.
- Try and encourage them to go for counselling. Do not force them, tell them to be open to the option and just try for one session. Therapy is extremely helpful when dealing with emotional distress.
- Try to make them feel safe and cared for, be there for them.
Self-harm Behaviour and Suicide Prevention
Self-harm and Suicide are two different concepts. But they are a part of each other. If it is important for there to be communication for suicide prevention, the behaviour of self-harm shouldn’t go unaddressed either.
Self-harm is a process where the emotional trauma of a person passes beyond their threshold, and they resort to hurting themselves to cope with the pain. As a result of the overwhelming emotions, they choose to cope through physical pain over mental anguish.
It can be performed with anything harmful to your body, sharp objects, harmful substances, or even the small action of intentionally scratching oneself or burning oneself.
It is often noted that people who indulge in self-harm practices have a higher risk of engaging in suicidal behaviour. But that doesn’t mean that everyone who self-harms has suicidal ideations.
Self-harm is also considered a coping method. An unhealthy way to cope with the severe emotional trauma they are going through. Some don’t even wish to die, but rather escape from their current situation.
Self-harm can be acted out in different ways and sometimes in entirely unpredictable methods. Be on the lookout for any of the warning signs.
Communication for Suicide Prevention in the Digital Age
In this digital world, mental health awareness is spreading around easily through social media. However, the change is yet to be seen in the process. But, you can try to do your part by educating people about mental health through social media and providing communication for suicide prevention by creating a safe digital space.
However, there are things you need to be careful with while displaying the required communication for suicide prevention.
1. Prior to posting anything about suicide prevention online
When online communication for suicide prevention is concerned, it is important to remember that your actions have consequences. Mind your words and give a trigger warning in the beginning if you plan on going in-depth about sensitive issues.
You never know what someone’s triggers are and how your words may impact the person reading them. Similarly, topics based on such issues which are highly stigmatized are difficult to word and put into an appropriate form. You should be sure about your post and what is your purpose behind it.
Do not share graphic images or videos which may be sensitive and offensive to some people. It could lead to either emotional distress, a trigger, or a personal offence.
2. Talking about someone you know who committed suicide
One of the forms of spreading awareness about suicide is also sharing your own experience of having someone close to you who was a victim of suicide. Sharing your experience encourages people to come forward with their own experience and understand the mental state better.
It gives you a safe space for grieving and gives way to healthy communication for suicide prevention.
Your experience will help other people realize the signs that they might have missed. Also, it will help people empathize more with people going through mental health issues and understand them better.
3. Creating memorial pages and groups for deceased
People often set up pages or have private groups to honour the deceased. Someone who has lost a loved one to suicide is well aware of the difficulties and emotional scarring it results in. And, it is through these pages that people understand the importance of mental health.
4. Sharing your own opinions about suicidal behaviour or your own experience
It is a big step to share your journey and reach where you are. Of course, the road to recovery is tough but not impossible. Sharing your experience will benefit not only you but also the reader.
Make sure you keep your privacy in mind and identify yourself as you wish. A proper way of having safe communication for suicide prevention is knowing what to share and how to put it in the right words. However, you may not always know the right words and it is okay. Just try to express yourself as best as you can.
Provide trigger warnings if you plan on explaining your experience in full detail. As a result, it will help people going through the same avoid possible triggers.
Keep Learning the Art of Safe Communication for Suicide Prevention
Mental health is an integral part of our overall health. It is not just the physical health that we should be concerned about but also our mental well-being. Our mental state also plays a role in keeping our physical body healthy.
Everyone has experienced emotional distress at some point in their life. But for some people, it goes way beyond their control. This leads to tragic consequences. And that is why it is important to break the stigma against mental health and start taking care of ourselves and the people around us.
Try and do more things that make you happy and at peace, interact with people and keep yourself busy. It is also important that you have a healthy conversation with your parents about your feelings. Talking about it with people around you is the first step against breaking the taboo.
If you or someone you know is going through depression or suicidal thoughts, you must seek a professional immediately. You have to remember that you are not alone. You have people that care about you, and most importantly, your life matters.
Seek out help as soon as you can and stay safe!
Self-care goes a long way in keeping a positive outlook about life and having a mind with a little less chaos. Check out this article if you like Netflix and find watching something relaxing.
- Risk Factors, Protective Factors, and Warning signs, Amercian foundation for suicide prevention. (1)
- Jessica Rassy, Cécile Bardon, Luc Dargis, Louis-Philippe Côté, Laurent Corthésy-Blondin, Carl-Maria Mörch, Réal Labelle, Information and Communication Technology Use in Suicide Prevention, Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (https://www.jmir.org), 04.05.2021. (2)
- Doyle, Louise, Brian Keogh, and Jean Morrissey,Working With Self-harm and Suicidal Behaviour, PALGRAVE, 2015. (3)
- Suicide Ideations: Symptoms, causes, prevention, and resources, Medically reviewed by Jennifer Litner, LMFT, CST — Written by Yvette Brazier, September 3, 2020. (4)
Tags: Communication for suicide prevention, depression, Digital communication, Mental Health, Mental well-being, Psychological issues, Signs of suicidal person, Suicidal ideations, Suicide prevention, Warning signs of suicide,