Recently, I lost a close friend and co-worker to suicide. Coping for the first time with this incident, I kept thinking of ways and strategies to help my friend, to prevent what happened. In my mind, I was imaging talking to him and convincing him that there are more options for him, there were different ways to handle whatever he was feeling. Then, I realized there was no use in doing any of that. What happened is over now, and there is nothing I can do about it.
Taking in this information, that there was nothing left I could do anymore and that did not sit well with me. I could not shake the feeling of "I wish I prevented it," "I could have done something," and "this didn't have to happen." So I decided the only way I could fully get over what happened, move on and have a peace of mind, was to actually prevent it from happening again. I sat down and researched, dedicated as much time as I could, to find useful and effective strategies and resources to prevent and provide awareness to suicide.
To spot a friend in need:
I was shocked when I found out. I had in no way seen it coming. When I picture my friend, I pictured him always smiling, being happy, and fully enjoying his life. I did not see the pain and suffering he silently had to go through alone.
Annmarie Dadoly wrote in her blog, "Suicide is forever, but the stress leading up to it is often temporary": "Many suicides (estimates range from 30% to 80%) are impulsive, with just minutes or an hour elapsing between the time a person decides upon suicide and when he or she commits the act." So, how can you tell someone is having suicidal thoughts, when they probably haven't even had them yet?
Dadoly's colleague, Patrick J. Skerrett, listed different warning signs that aren't easily found in his blog, "Suicide often not preceded by warnings". These include:
- an episode of depression, psychosis, or anxiety
- a significant loss, such as the death of a partner or the loss of a job
- a personal crisis or life stress, especially one that increases a sense of isolation or leads to a loss of self-esteem, such as a breakup or divorce
- loss of social support, for example, because of a move or when a close friend relocates
- an illness or medication that triggers a change in mood
- exposure to the suicidal behaviors of others, such as friends, peers, or celebrities.
People struggling with suicidal thoughts and depression rarely seek help, which is a common warning sign of someone on the verge of committing suicide. ULifeline, an electronic resource for college students to have access to the information they need to information on their mental health, gives a list of signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, or seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Feeling trapped or like there’s no way out
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and society
- Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Dramatic mood changes
- Expressing no reason for living or no sense of purpose in life
- Prior suicide attempts
How to convince your friend to get help:
David Susman PhD., keeps an online blog about mental health and wellness. In one blog post in particular, called "8 Reasons Why People Don’t Get Treatment for Mental Illness", he wrote about his analytical finding from the World Health Organization that stated, "Between 30 and 80 percent of people with mental health concerns never receive treatment." David says people don't receive treatment for various reasons, such as fear of the shame, lack of reasonable insight, complete hopelessness and other reasons.
To really get a friend help, the best you can do is convince them they are worth being helped. Specifically, people diagnosed with depression and anxiety, they have low self-esteems and consistent feelings of hopelessness, as if the world would be better off without them. They don't want help because they feel like they're not worth being helped.
Resources for help:
From online resources to programs, the amount of treatments and people out there willing to help is limitless. Some online programs are:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers 24/7 free and confidential support.
This is also provided by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, except this is online chatting instead of having an over the phone conversation.
This program is run by a high school, which accepts donations to host events for other high schoolers. The website offers newsletters that can be sent to your email, where you can receive constant updates on stories of hope and survivors recovering.
To find support groups near you, you can search for them through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.
I am still sad, for lack of better terms, for my friend. I will continue to miss him, and his memories will never be forgotten. My hope for writing this is that no one will feel the way I do, or way my friend once did.