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How to recognise and help a suicidal person

Here's how you can recognise and help a suicidal person.

When a person thinks of ending their life, it is a point where they feel that the problems they are facing are insurmountable. While depression is definitely something that pushes a person closer to suicide, there are other situations where he may see no hope or solution to their dilemma. Often alone and with no one to share their problem with, people who are depressed and are thinking of committing suicide need you -- a friend/family or loved one. Here's how you can recognise and help a person contemplating suicide.

Recognising that someone is suicidal:

If you see the following signs, its time you understand that the person has suicidal tendencies:

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  • Talking about being dead, or how people would be happier if they were dead could be a sign.
  • Extreme moods swings. The person is very depressed at one moment and is happy and excited the next.
  • Does not accept praise or compliments well: when he/she does get a compliment there have been moments of them behaving rashly or in a harsh manner
  • Drastic changes in habits, friends, or appearance, ie; new friends, skipping school, dropping out of favourite activities, and no longer caring about appearance or cleanliness.
  • Changes in weight, sleeping habits, and physical activity.
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, or activities that once gave the person pleasure or a sense of identity.
  • A sudden, unexpected and tragic event or the anniversary of such an event accompanied by a uncharacteristic withdrawal and/or depression.

However, it is also possible that some people may not show any of these signs before they decide to commit suicide. So, all you can really do is make sure you are there for them when they do need you.

Do not judge, they aren t 'crazy' or 'mentally ill'...

In most cases, people who are suicidal are as normal and mentally healthy as any of us are. They are just acutely distressed and a majority suffer from depression which could be either reactive depression in reaction to difficult circumstances or endogenous which is basically a diagnosable mental illness with some underlying cause or a combination of the two.

What you need to understand is that we are in a society where the tag crazy or mentally ill evokes a sense or stigma amongst people. A suicidal person may fear that people will think they are crazy. This fear further isolated them and worsens their feeling of being alone with their problem. In any case, describing someone as crazy or mentally ill, has strong negative connotations, and probably isn't the best way to handle a potentially fatal situation. Such a tag will dissuade a person from seeking help which could be crucial to their health. You may also like to read more about how stigma can be a major barrier for prevention.

Here's how you can help...

Sometimes all they need is someone who will lend a patient ear, someone who understands and empathizes. So, if you know someone who you suspect is suicidal, here s what you can do:

Step 1: Most importantly tell him/her that you are there for them no matter what. You must make them believe and understand that they are a crucial part of your life and that life would not be the same without them.

Step2: Ask them to get professional help and not take their life into their own hands. Ask them to confide in a parent, trusted elder or family member or a counsellor.

Step 3: Don t leave them alone. Get some friends involved if you can t spend time with them.

Step 4: Do not take it on yourself to talk to your friend out of the situation or save them. If the person has reached a point of finality in their decision to die, the problem is best handled by a professional who can counsel the person better.

You may also like to read about depression.

Counselling isn t a solution by itself...

A counsellor empowers the client to build the sort of relationship they need for long-term support. He/she also provides the client with an unbiased and open view on his/her problem. Some issues may never be resolved with counselling, but a good counsellor can teach the person to deal better with stressful situations that may arise in the future.

Help is but a call away...

There are many suicide prevention hotlines which allow the suicidal person to speak anonymously to a counsellor. This provision allows one to speak about any problem without the fear of being judged. They also have connections with local services where you may get referred in case you require further help. This service is helpful if you are a friend of a suicidal person or are experiencing suicidal thoughts yourself.

Numbers of some well-known suicide prevention hotlines:

  • AASRA: 022-27546669
  • The Samaritans Sahara: 022-23073451
  • SNEHA- 044-24640050

Apart from these there are a few more helplines you can call, here are their contact details.

More than one soul dies in a suicide...

Although people who are suicidal think no one would care if they died, the reality may be very different. The experience is extremely traumatic for the survivors of people who end up committing suicide. In addition to the feeling of remorse associated with the death of a loved one, they also experience guilt, anger, resentment, confusion and distress over unresolved issues.

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Image source: Getty Images


For more articles on Suicide Prevention, visit our Suicide Prevention section. For daily free health tips, sign up for our newsletter. For Suicide Prevention related queries, visit our forum.

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