World Suicide Prevention Day: Take a Minute to Connect with Someone
As we adjust to a post-lockdown world, there is no doubt that many people will be feeling isolated. If you notice that someone seems to be having a difficult time, you could help more than you realise.
This year, World Suicide Prevention Day is urging us to take a minute to reach out. Studies have shown that one in five people experience suicidal thoughts. Watching someone battle with these challenges can be extremely difficult. If you are worried about a family member, friend or colleague, reach out, start a conversation and support the person in accessing any help available to them.
Conditions that can lead to a person having suicidal thoughts include:
This is a common mental health condition with symptoms including intense low mood, anxiety and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. It can cause those suffering to become isolated, withdrawing from friends, family and any social activities.
- Alcohol addiction
Also referred to as alcoholism and alcohol use disorder, this condition is characterised by drinking excessive alcohol to the point that the body starts to depend on it. It can be dangerous to a person’s mental and physical health. It can also exacerbate existing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, the pain of which the drinker may be attempting to numb.
- Personality disorders
Those who struggle with a personality disorder experience challenges with their thinking patterns and controlling their emotions. They are often prone to emotional storms in which they struggle with powerful self-destructive feelings. That can lead to serious self-harm and suicide attempts. They are also more likely to develop conditions such as depression, anxiety, alcohol and substance abuse. Personality disorders tend to be long-term conditions, but they often fluctuate in severity.
- Bipolar disorder
This used to be called manic depression, and is characterised by instability in mood and excessive mood swings. This is where a person experiences extremely low moods or energetic highs known as mania, both of which can be damaging. The mania can impair judgement and the ability to make decisions, while the intense low mood can make getting through the day feel impossible. Sometimes people with bipolar disorder are in mixed emotional states, in which they can feel energised and depressed at the same time. This can lead to high-risk suicidal behaviour, with hopelessness and agitation.
If you are worried that someone is having suicidal thoughts, reach out and talk to them. While you may be concerned that if you mention it, you will ‘put ideas into the person’s head’, that is not what happens. Most people who have suicidal thoughts are relieved to have someone to share them with. They don’t want to be alone. If you are open and honest about your concerns, this can be a turning point for them. It removes the stigma and shows them that you understand what they are going through.
Here are a few key points to remember when reaching out to someone:
Rather than rushing into the conversation, make preparations to talk to them in a suitable environment. This means somewhere that you won’t be interrupted, where the person feels relaxed and at ease. This will help them to open up and engage with you. Being outside of the home, perhaps on a walk, may help to encourage them to talk freely.
- Starting the conversation
Try to understand their situation without confronting them. Start by explaining that you have been worried about them, without making them feel guilty. Try to find out how they are feeling by gently asking them whether they would like to share anything with you. Never rush into directly confronting someone with assumptions.
- Consider your questions
Take a little time to think about what you would like to ask. You can understand more clearly what they are going through by asking relevant, considered questions. These might include “How long have you been feeling like this?” or “What can I do to help?”
- Keep lines of communication open
Speak to or spend time with the person regularly. This will help them to see that they do have people who care about them and who want to help. Keeping in regular contact will also give the person an opportunity to open up and talk about any challenges that they are going through, so that they don’t have to try and deal with the thoughts and feelings on their own.
While it is important to be there to listen and talk to someone who is struggling, professional mental health treatment should always be prioritised as a next step. Let the person know that you will there to support them throughout their journey and that there is no judgement or stigma attached to seeking help. It is in fact a commendable step that will help with their recovery.