Official suicide statistics in Australia show that more people die from suicide than from road-related transport deaths or skin cancer, and that suicide is the leading cause of death among men under 44 and women under 34. With Sept. 10 being World Suicide Prevention Day, it’s a good time to learn how to recognise when someone isn’t coping.
Withdrawing from family and friends
Someone contemplating suicide will often become withdrawn, pulling away from family and friends and coming up with excuses as to why they can’t socialise or participate. They may begin to feel pressured to socialise, expressing feelings of being smothered or controlled. This lack of communication and sharing about their day-to-day lives can be an early suicide warning sign.
Expressing feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
Comments about feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless or trapped are a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored. Someone considering suicide feels that the only way out of their situation is death. Comments about how helpless they feel, that they are worthless or their life is hopeless should be taken very seriously.
Someone who you feel is acting recklessly, especially if it’s out of the ordinary, may be a suicide risk. Often, suicidal people put themselves in dangerous situations. It may be running red lights, speeding, substance abuse or less elaborate types of behaviour, like darting across a busy street. It may seem like they are acting recklessly without thinking, but often a suicidal person is aware of these types of dangerous actions. They take on an aura of tempting fate.
Talking and thinking about death
Statements like “I’m better off dead”, “It’s not worth being here” or “I wish I was dead” should be taken very seriously. Often, a suicidal person wants help but they don’t know how to ask for it or find it. Someone thinking about suicide is likely to reach out for help in this way.
Sudden feelings of happiness
A sudden and unexpected change from being deeply depressed to becoming very calm, controlled and even happy should be taken very seriously as a strong warning sign of suicide. When a depressed person has chosen suicide as the way out of their situation, they usually become more lighthearted and upbeat, knowing that there is going to be an end to their misery.
Losing interest in things
Showing a loss of interest in things they used to enjoy is one warning sign to be wary of. A suicidal person no longer finds joy in the things they used to appreciate. This can include hobbies, relationships, work or family. Ambitions and goals are no longer of any interest.
Deep sadness, loneliness and despair, coupled with other signs of clinical depression, such as loss of appetite and trouble sleeping, should all be taken as warning signs of possible suicide. According to Webmd.com, statistics show that around 90 per cent of those who commit suicide have clinical depression. Depression should be taken seriously. If you know someone who you suspect may be clinically depressed, help them to seek appropriate medical advice.
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Personality changes, whether it be mood swings or a complete turnaround in personality and behaviour is a clear warning sign that a person is contemplating suicide. Personality changes consistent with suicidal tendencies can include deep lows and extreme highs, severe anxiety or agitation, cynicism or a vacant demeanour. When personality changes are coupled with any of the other warning signs, be sure to seek out the support and advice needed to help the situation.
Getting affairs in order
A very clear warning side of suicide is one who seems to be getting their affairs in order. They may be giving away personal belongings, drawing up or revising their will, or talking about caring for children or pets.
Calling to say goodbye
If you know someone who has been depressed and could potentially be suicidal, be wary if they start calling or visiting friends and family to say goodbye. By this point, they have usually made a suicide plan and have already taken the steps to fulfil that plan. Often becoming more affectionate and acting as if they are never going to see you again, this behaviour should be taken very seriously.