Suicide: Signs of Suicidal Ideation and What You Can Do to Help

Suicide, according to the World Health Organization, is the third leading cause of death among the youth globally. About 1 in 5 people have thought about committing suicide at a point in their lifetime. Sadly, these disturbing numbers seem to only keep rising year after year. Even around us now, we’re beginning to feel more acutely the effects of the rise in suicide rates. Although this can be partly attributable to various socio-cultural factors that are difficult to control, thankfully, there are still a few things we as individuals in society can do to help substantially cut down the rate of suicide.

The fact that suicide can be difficult to predict poses the greatest obstacle to its prevention. While mental illnesses such as depression increase a person’s risk of suicide, there still exist some seemingly healthy individuals who make the split-second decision to take their own lives. As humans, we can be very unpredictable. Despite this, there are still some telltale behavioural signs to watch out for that are worrisome at best and, at worst, indicative of suicidal ideation.

As suicidal tendencies have been closely linked with affective disorders, symptoms of depression or anxiety such as significant sleep changes, extreme mood swings, irritability, and significant changes in appetite should never be ignored. People who have gone through drastic financial or social changes (like the loss of an important relationship), extreme stress, or have a history of attempted suicide, trauma, abuse, or bullying are also at a higher risk of suicide.

If you’re worried a loved one is at risk of suicide, listen closely to what they say, the statements they make. That a person who threatens to commit suicide wouldn’t see it through is a myth. Frequent statements about how they feel suicide is the only way out or about how they feel they can’t go on living should never be overlooked.

Other signs include:

  • Putting affairs in order (writing a will, giving away possessions, etc.)
  • An abrupt change in disposition from desperation to calmness
  • Self-harm.
  • Social Isolation.

Noticing these signs and being able to do something to effectively help are two different things entirely. Sometimes it can be easy to spot the signs, but tasking to know the best way to offer assistance. Offering good advice and providing suicide hotlines are laudable efforts. But if someone has told you they’re thinking of committing suicide, or it seems obvious to you that they’re considering it, then those measures might not be enough to make a significant difference. Don’t just give them the hotlines. Try as much as you can to make sure they make that call. Put in extra effort to check up on their well-being. That extra mile you go can be all it takes to reach them and pull them off the cliff. 

Try not to trivialize their struggles in any way. Phrases like “Everyone goes through phases like this” usually end up doing more harm than good. Don’t be too quick to give advice. Even if there isn’t much you can do at that moment, just actively listening could go a long way.

Reducing the rates of suicide is everyone’s responsibility. Admittedly, mental struggles are incredibly isolating, which can make it difficult to get through to people. However, it is worth remembering that sometimes, all it takes to save a life is to keep trying.

National Suicide Hotlines: +234 806 210 6493, +234 809 210 6493

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