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Suicide Prevention: You Can Help Someone Make the Choice to Stay

Anxiety.Depression.Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.PTSD.Anorexia Nervosa.

I’m sure you’ve heard of all these terms and more before. Why’d I bring up those conditions?  Mental Disorders play an overwhelming role in the increased risk of suicide, with estimates suggesting that up to 90% of individuals who take their own life suffer from some type of psychiatric disorder.

I pointed this out because in our society today, we’re even more connected than ever. From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, we’ve never been more in touch with each other. Mental Illness is not as much of a taboo topic as it once was because we are speaking up. We login to our various social media accounts and share but that’s not enough. We have the power to educate even more, to make spaces safer to share and to help someone, even if it’s a listening ear.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals aged 15 to 34 and in 2017, 47,000 lives were lost to suicide—that’s one death every 11 minutes.

With that said, I’d like to share some things to look out for if you think someone may be suicidal:

·      Talking consistently negatively about not being alive, such as, “If I never see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.” I know in this day and age, it seems like these statements are made everyday but you never know who’s truly on the edge.

·        You notice a shift in their outlook on life. They speak of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). There is a belief that things will never get better or change.

·        There is a high level of self-loathing, and self-hatred. They view themselves like a burden, such as “Everyone would be better off without me.”

·        They begin giving away prized possessions, almost as if to be parting gifts

·        And the biggest one, seemingly random Goodbyes. This can come in the form of unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. 

With these in mind, there are a couple things to keep in mind when speaking to someone who you think may be suicidal: 

·        Let them know you care. I find that the "right words" are unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.

·        If they says things like, “I can’t go on,” you can ask  “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are NOT putting ideas in their head; you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s okay  for them to share their pain with you.

·        Don’t say things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt so many people,” or “It could be worse.” This belittles their own inner battles and feelings.

·        Don’t insist that you won’t tell anyone. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe.

Of course there are many other things that can be looked out for and there are many other things that can be done to help. The most important thing is that you understand that someone who is mentally ill is someone who needs help. It is not a personal failure. And secondly, suicide is a choice and you can help someone make the choice to stay. 

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Author Profile

Kennika Johnson graduated from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus with a degree in Psychology with a minor in Management Studies with honors. She hails from Trinidad and Tobago to which she owes a great deal of her passion for culture and people. She's currently in the Tourism and Entertainment field in Jamaica whilst maintaining her passion for Mental Health as the Programme Director for Think Mental Health JA. Her calling to help others understand their minds as well as the everyday struggles of life was one she recognized  from the age of 14 whilst in third form. What has truly propelled her and kept her passion alive for mental health and awareness is being a survivor of mental illness herself. Since then, she has been passionate about educating herself and anyone she interacts with about the effects of mental illness and the power of your mind.

Photo credits
Karel Prinsloo

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