A story I read in June this year still plays in my mind. A police officer drove his car into sea at Discovery Bay in St. Ann. That he attempted suicide is startling but not as shocking as what happened next. Residents who saw the car being driven into the sea managed to rescue the man before the car was fully submerged and called the police department. But before the police arrived on the scene, the man rushed back into the sea and has not been seen or heard from since. What touched me about this story was how determined this man was to lose his life. Since then I’ve heard a lot of dialogue that accuses the man of being foolish–that he should have found another way out before he thought to take his life. What a lot of people don’t realize is that suicide is not something that most people attempt lightly. It’s usually a decision made when it feels as if there is just no way out. The truth is that over 800,000 people commit suicide each year. So what do we do if we are ever in a situation with someone who is suicidal? How do we recognize the signs?
Recognizing the Signs of a Suicidal Person
A person who is contemplating suicide usually demonstrates tell-tale behavior. A lot of them want to be saved, but they don’t know how to save themselves. According to the Suicide Line, some of these signs include:
- Major changes to sleeping patterns–too much or too little
- Loss of energy
- Loss of interest in personal hygiene or appearance
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Quitting activities that were previously important
- Prior suicidal behavior
- Putting affairs in order (e.g. giving away possessions, especially those that have special significance for the person)
- Writing a suicide note or goodbye letters to people
- Conversational cues such as: “What’s the point? Things are never going to get any better”or “I’ve been irreparably damaged… I’ll never be the same again”
- Talking about suicide or death
- Planning for suicide
- Feelings of desperation, disconnection, or hopelessness
For a more detailed list visit: https://www.suicideline.org.au/worried-about-someone/recognising-suicide-warning-signs/.
While it’s true that persons may exhibit the behavior above and not be suicidal, it takes nothing from us to reach out and be that helping hand. Sometimes a person just needs someone to talk to–a way of releasing whatever fear or tension that they may be experiencing.
What to Do If You Think Someone is Suicidal
Don’t panic. The absolute best thing you could do in a situation like this is to stay calm. If the person is thinking suicide, they have enough on their minds. The last thing they need is to have to deal with your emotions on top of theirs.
Be careful what you say. Telling the person that they are stupid (or foolish) for thinking to take their lives is not the best to enter into a conversation about suicide. The person will only get defensive and stop listening to you and any leverage you could have had will be lost.
Get help. Unless you’re a trained professional, do not attempt to handle the situation on your own. Reach out to the Suicide Help desk in your area. Talk to a medical doctor, a counselor, a pastor…someone who works for the Suicide Hotline.
Reassure the person that they are not alone. Remember the statistics? Over 800 000 people commit suicide each year (making it one of the top 20 causes of death)–a lot more people attempt it.
Help the person to see that there’s a way out. Most people attempt suicide, because they believe that there’s no way out of their situation. Try to get the person to talk about the reason they want to end their life. Help them to come up with an alternative way out of the situation.
Remind them that there is Someone who loves them. Sometimes people feel unloved and unlovable and so they think that “the world would be a better place without them”. That’s one of the greatest lies of the enemy. He wants us to feel unwanted, unloved, hopeless, and worthless instead of chosen, loved, blessed, and precious in the sight of God. Offer to pray with the person. There is wonderful power in the name of Jesus. This power can save and convict even the most depressed or desolate person.
As children of God, one of our duties on earth is to make a positive difference in the lives of those around us. We do this when we demonstrate care towards them and when we support them in their times of difficulties. It’s not our place to judge those persons who have contemplated, attempted, or committed suicide; instead we should offer grace. We should understand that sometimes persons just can’t see a way out. I pray that if you are ever in a situation with a suicidal person that you remember to treat them with love as Jesus would.
Mother of an animal-loving boy, wife to a video-game playing husband, Ami Coote spends her days trying to survive the numbers that surround her at work. By night she’s a homework checking, Bible-reading, blog-writing woman with a passion for encouraging others to dig into the word of God.
Ami invites her readers to run their own race of faith–no matter what it looks like. God created unique individuals who serve Him in various ways. You can read more from Ami at www.Hebrews12Endurance.com. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.