Suicide is a reaction to the stressful life situations. But It is important to know that, suicidal thoughts can be handled and treated in much better ways if recognised early. It is important to look for signs among your loved ones if they are going through any difficult situations in life. Talking to the individual and consulting a therapist or psychiatrist if the ideations are strong is one of the better ways to handle it.
Suicidal thoughts can trigger at any time, from trivial issues in the family to major ones like sexual abuse, conflict, financial issues, depression etc. Few might start talking about suicide after a fight with their family members and get pacified later. If the suicidal thoughts persist for a longer time, they might try all means to take the extreme step. It is the responsibility of the family members and friends to identify these signs and consult a therapist.
Mostly people start exhibiting signs once they start getting the suicidal thoughts. These signs are:
- Talking about suicide more often: They start repeating statements like “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead” or “I wish I hadn’t been born”
- Withdrawing from social contact and wanting to be left alone: Sudden cut off from the family and friends are not good indications.
- Changing normal routine, including eating or sleeping patterns: Changing the regular lifestyle pattern without any reasons, sleeping problems, avoiding food intake continuously has to be observed.
- Personality changes: Getting too anxious, agitated – Regular mood swings, getting angry, upset for small issues, long lasting sadness, unexpected rage to be noticed
- Feeling hopeless about the situation and expressing it with the dear ones: Expressing their dissatisfaction about life, feeling of failure can make them hurt themselves.
- Changes in personality or appearance: A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behavior, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness.
- Making preparations: Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will etc.
- Harmful behaviour: Buying unnecessary things like sleeping pills, ropes which will aid suicide, reckless driving are also indications
- Sudden increase in alcohol and drug consumption
- Always getting preoccupied about death, violence etc
- Expressing suicidal ideas and thoughts – This is a very important sign which is expressed by many but ignored by family members and friends. It is crucial to take those expressed ideas seriously.
These warning signs vary from person to person. Depending on the situation, people make their intentions clear and obvious.
Reaching out to the person who is going through the suicidal thoughts and supporting him by taking him to the doctor is crucial in saving the individual. The best way to support the person facing suicidal impulsions are to understand the risk factors and recognising the signs early. This can help in the prevention of suicides.
Risk factors associated with suicidal tendencies are
- Attempted suicide before
- Feeling of isolation, agitated and hopelessness
- Experience of stressful life events
- Having underlying psychiatric disorder
- Family history of suicide, mental disorder
- Going through chronic pain, disease etc
Assisting to abort the suicidal impulsions therapeutically is important in many cases. If you know or suspect somebody is having suicidal thoughts, please confront them directly without beating around the bush. Suicidal thoughts need to be addressed by a psychiatrist. It is suggested that the individual is not left alone or isolated once they show signs of suicidal thoughts. It is also recommended to keep sharp and harmful objects away from the individual, being non-judgemental while talking to them and being empathetic. Admitting the individual to the hospital, keeping him under supervision along with proper treatment, can help the person overcome suicidal tendencies and lead a normal life. We have wonderful medications to handle these ideations.
By Dr. Pallavi Arvind Joshi, Consultant – Psychiatrist, Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield