When you start to wonder if a loved one is suicidal, let’s face it, that can be scary. But what signs can you look out for to know for sure and also, how do you approach them about it? Understanding the warning signs and knowing how to approach your loved one can make a significant difference in his/her life.
Learn common warning signs of suicidal behavior and practical steps for supporting someone who may be experiencing suicidal feelings.
Recognizing Warning Signs
1. Changes in Behavior: Increased substance abuse, reckless behavior, or withdrawal from activities may indicate distress.
2. Mood Swings: Rapid, extreme mood swings, including feelings of hopelessness, persistent sadness, anger, irritability, or anxiety are telltale signs.
3. Verbal Clues: Listen for statements that express feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or a belief that life has no purpose. Pay attention to any direct or indirect expressions of thoughts about self-harm or suicide.
4. Social Withdrawal: Isolation from friends and family, avoiding social interactions, and becoming increasingly distant might indicate emotional distress.
5. Sleep and Eating Habits: Changes in sleep patterns and drastic changes in appetite may indicate emotional turmoil.
Steps to Support Your Loved Ones
1. Initiate a Conversation: Approach them with empathy and compassion, expressing your concern for their well-being. Choose a quiet and comfortable environment where they feel safe to open up without judgment. Ensure that there are no distractions or time constraints so you can dedicate your full attention to the conversation.
2. Active Listening: Allow the person to share his/her thoughts and emotions openly. Practice active listening by maintaining eye contact, providing encouraging non-verbal cues, and nodding to show your understanding. Resist the urge to interrupt or offer immediate solutions.
3. Express Empathy: Show empathy by acknowledging their pain and validating their experiences without judgment, blame, or shame. Phrases like, “I can’t imagine how difficult this must be for you,” or “You’re not alone in this, and I’m here to support you,” can help create a safe and supportive environment.
4. Provide Words of Hope and Life: When the time feels right, share positive messages of hope and life. Remind them that they have people who care about them and that things can and will get better with the right support. Reassure them that seeking help is a brave and worthwhile step towards healing and recovery.
5. Encourage Professional Help: Suggest seeking professional help from therapists, counselors, or helplines. Offer to assist in finding appropriate resources or accompany them to appointments if they feel comfortable.
6. Stay Connected: Maintain regular check-ins and remind them of your ongoing support. Encourage engagement in activities they enjoy and invite them to spend time with loved ones, fostering a sense of connection.
Early recognition of suicidal tendencies and appropriate intervention can make a world of difference in someone’s life. Below are some additional resources for your education and also to offer to a loved one struggling with suicidal thoughts or behavior.
Resources for Further Assistance:
● National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)
● Crisis Text Line: Text “HELLO” to 741741
● Mental Health America: www.mhanational.net
● American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org