Brookwood Baptist Health Blog

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3 Steps to Helping Prevent Suicide

Sep 15, 2017

Suicide knows no boundaries. But what can we do if someone we know, or even ourselves, are experiencing suicidal thoughts?

It can affect any age group, ethnicity or race. According to the Alabama Center for Health Statistics, Alabama has shown a pattern of higher suicide rates than the U.S. national average since 1990.

Suicide is a tragedy for anyone, and it effects more than just those who commit it. For each suicide that is committed, it is estimated by the Alabama Department of Public Health that at least 6 other people are intimately affected.

Know the signs

According to Cindy Jones, program manager of the Psychiatry department at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center, there are several signs that indicate someone may be suicidal or may become suicidal.

“Many times, people who might be suicidal exhibit signs such as withdrawing themselves from the community, isolating themselves from loved ones and friends, not going to work, not taking care of themselves on a basic level, and ignoring their basic responsibilities,” said Cindy. For pre-teens or teenagers, it is especially important to be on the lookout for bullying, either directly or indirectly through social media channels, or through being ostracized at school.

Other signs that Cindy mentioned were a preoccupation with death, speaking more about death, or actual overt statements such as “There is no more hope” or “I have nothing to live for.”

Major life changes can also trigger suicidal feelings. “Not knowing how to move forward or recover from a recent event or life change can lead to suicidal thoughts,” said Cindy. “This is especially true if a family member or loved one commits suicide, but it can also mean losing a job, a change in physical health, or a tragedy like the recent hurricanes.”

Don’t be afraid to ask “Are you suicidal?”

“This is the number one thing to do if you suspect someone is having suicidal feelings,” said Cindy. “Don’t be afraid to ask this hard question. Don’t be afraid that it will give them ideas. It won’t suddenly make them contemplate suicide – in fact, it shows how much you care about them and that you are there for them.”

From experience, Cindy knows that this is the hardest part of any conversation about suicide, but it’s vital to getting the person the help they need. “If we know that they are having those thoughts, then we can get them the help they need and save their life,” she said.

Seek help

“If someone is having suicidal thoughts, they need to let someone know immediately,” said Cindy. “There are many avenues available for help from hotlines to medical professionals.”

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help available. Reach out to a family member or someone you know, call the local Crisis Center (205-323-7777) or national Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255), or speak to your healthcare provider. If you do not have a health care provider that you can speak to quickly, go to the nearest emergency room.

Cindy had a message to pass to those contemplating suicide: “Don’t be afraid of the stigma. You aren’t failing. People understand and there are other solutions, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. Don’t be afraid to talk about it – there are many people, both loved ones and professionals, that care about you and want to help you.”

If your loved one or someone you know is showing signs of being suicidal, encourage them to access options for help. “If you see someone showing the signs, seek them out and be proactive,” said Cindy. “Talk to them and let them know that you are there for them and to talk if needed, even if you don’t know them that well. Instill hope that suicide is not the solution, and let them know all of the options available to help. The person may not come to you because of shame, guilt, or a feeling of failure, so reach out and talk to them.”

If a suicidal person is pushing you away, contact 9-1-1 or contact a police official.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please seek help. Call the local crisis center at 205-323-7777, the national Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, your local health provider or go to the nearest Emergency Room.