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We need to talk about suicide prevention

Have you been affected by suicide? Sadly, it's more common than many of us may realize.

The statistics are frightening:

  • Worldwide, suicide ranks among the three leading causes of death among 15 – 44 year olds.

  • Suicide accounts for more loss of life in the world than the total number of deaths from war, acts of terrorism and homicide combined.

  • In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide.

  • Rates among young people have been increasing to such an extent that they are now the group at highest risk in a third of countries.

As a psychologist, I often open up the conversation to explore whether someone is having thoughts of suicide. I am no longer surprised by the number of people who bravely share that, yes, they are. I've learned that many people don't want to end their lives, but they want the emotional suffering to stop. Some people lose all hope and don't see a way out.

That's why it's necessary to open up and talk about suicide prevention and treatment.

It's not an easy conversation to have, but starting to talk about it can help people see other ways out of their situation. Claudia Hammond notes that if someone says they are considering suicide, it’s a myth to think that talking to them about their feelings will further endanger their lives.

I was recently approached by Melissa Howard who is on a mission to ensure that helpful resources are available for anyone who is experiencing thoughts about suicide. So instead of my usual blog/vlog, Melissa will be featured as a guest on my blog this month.

Melissa Howard believes that every suicide is preventable. After losing her younger brother to suicide, she felt compelled to create StopSuicide. By providing helpful resources and articles on her website, she hopes to build a lifeline of information.

Here is Melissa's guest post on Suicide Prevention:

Suicide prevention: What to do when you are feeling suicidal

Life can be challenging. At times, the lows seem to outdo the highs. You may be at a point where you are faced with a seemingly unending string of problems that you see no way out. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and pressed down. Many people feel the same way at one point or another in their life. However, when you feel suicidal, it is time to get help.

Watch for the signs

Being suicidal manifests differently for different people. Some people report feeling suicidal even when life is going on well. Most suicidal people have an underlying feeling that they cannot continue to live. The feeling may fluctuate from moment to moment and build up over time.

Consider these warnings:

  • You feel hopeless, despaired and a sense that the only way to end the pain in your life is by ending your life.

  • You are regularly preoccupied with thoughts of taking your own life. Such thoughts may progress to the point that you start exploring methods of committing suicide and making calculated plans to end your life.

  • Feeling like you are a burden to people, and they would be better off without you.

  • Loss of desire to take care of yourself.

  • Low self-esteem.

  • An urge to harm yourself.

Suicide can be prevented, and suicidal thoughts are not permanent. With professional help, you can find a reason and motivation to live again. Here is how to deal with being suicidal.

1. Immediate preventative action

When you are not feeling suicidal, take time to rid your home of any items that you can use to harm yourself. These include razors, pills, knives, firearms and poisonous chemicals. When the urge arises, give yourself a 24-hour waiting period before you take any action. In the meantime, engage in disruptive activities. You could listen to your favorite music, do breathing exercises, workout or bask in the sun. If you had initially worked with a specialist to create your safety plan, refer to it.

2. Tell someone

When faced with suicidal thoughts, you may find it difficult to open up to people. You may fear upsetting them, being judged or that they will not understand you. Consider talking to your doctor or therapist. They are in a better position to offer professional help or to refer you to a specialist. Otherwise, tell a trusted friend or family member.

3. Avoid drugs and alcohol

According to a report by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, suicide risk among adults is elevated by up to 19 times among individuals who use alcohol or drugs. In fact, suicide is the leading cause of death among individuals with substance abuse disorder. Psychology Today notes that when you are under the influence, you are more likely to lose your inhibitions and take actions that you would normally not take when sober.

4. Seek treatment

The appropriate suicide treatment plan depends on a specific individual and the situation at hand. In non-emergency situations, treatment may integrate psychotherapy, medication and support. On the other hand, in cases of suicide crisis, the doctor may recommend that you stay in the hospital for a while. If you had made any attempts at suicide, treatment will first focus on managing the damage caused.

5. Seek support

Suicide treatment and prevention is not a one off activity. It takes time to fully recover. Seeking support helps with recovery. Join peer support groups, get in touch with your therapist when needed and surround yourself with positive friends and family.

More people than you imagine have attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts. However, after seeking professional help they were able to regain their motivation to live. You, too, can get the help you need to overcome suicidal tendencies.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Thank you Melissa....


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Beth Matthews is a Registered Psychologist who is driven to help people feel better about themselves. She can help you if you are struggling in your life. You can learn easy-to-use strategies to help you cope with anything that comes your way.


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