I haven’t wrote in a while because I haven’t felt the passion to write about something that is close to me, until suicide awareness prevention month came about. Now, after a quick google, there is suicide prevention week which is the 6th to the 12th of September but Twitter seems to be saying it’s suicide prevention awareness month to which I have no complaints. With this in mind, I would love to write a few tips on how people can recognise when someone is suicidal and how they can help. This is all based on personal experience, so I do understand that this may not apply to everyone.
Background Information// Big trigger warning for anyone who struggles reading about others plans of suicide
Sometimes when I read posts from people who have not been through the experience they are talking about, I find it difficult to believe and take in the advice they are giving me. This is why my posts are generally centred around my own experiences or information I have investigated or learned about. So, without wobbling on any further, here is how I relate to suicide prevention awareness. During 2018, I had planned to commit suicide twice. Without being stopped by someone who was close to me at the time, I fully believe I would not be here right now. I struggled with severe anxiety and depression, I took around six to eight months out of education and felt like I could not speak to any of my friend’s about it because they made quite a lot of jokes about me not coming into school anymore.
The first time that I had planned to take my life was the day of leavers in 2018, since I knew everyone would be in the closest pub to the school and I would be alone. The second time was during university, I vividly remember sitting on the floor of my en-suite and deciding I did not want to be here anymore and wrote out letters to send to family. As awful as it is to read, this is the reality for hundreds upon thousands of people every single week. I want people to know that I am giving this advice based on my own experience, there has to be someone out there who has felt the same as me and can benefit from the same help.
Lets start with the most basic one, be there. The first time I was suicidal I felt like I did not have anyone there, like I said people made jokes about my absence and overall it is difficult to talk about these things at such a young age too. Sometimes it is difficult to spot the signs of someone who is suicidal but hopefully if you do, let them know that you are there if they ever need you. One thing I cannot stress enough is checking up on them, a simple ‘hi how are you’ goes a ridiculously long way. I have a friend that every few days will message me asking how I am, and knowing that I can easily turn around and say ‘actually, I’m not doing all that good’ really makes me feel like if I am ever struggling I always have someone to turn to. Being there for someone can easily just be inviting them out for coffee, going to the cinema or just sending them a video or photo with a ‘this made me think of you’ message. One thing I will always stress is saying ‘I would love it if you came’ rather than ‘you can come if you want to’, make sure they know that you want them around.
Notice the signs
Sometimes the signs are really hard to spot, but I will try to give some tips based on my experience.
- They become absent. Cancelling plans, not attending work/school, leaving in the middle of situations ect. I see a lot of people living by ‘if they’re not going to bother with me then I am not going to bother with them’, we need to get this saying out of our head because this isn’t always the case. If you notice someone is becoming more and more absent, reach out to them and make sure they are doing okay.
- Rapid weight changes. Sometimes when people feel like they can’t control other aspects of their life, they resort to controlling their eating habits which can result in restricting food and losing weight. On the other hand, forms of depression can lead to comfort eating and binge eating, resulting in weight gain.
- Unable to maintain personal hygiene. Some days you just cannot bring yourself to get out of bed and shower or take care of your appearance.
- Being distracted. If you start noticing the signs of someone being suicidal or depressed, sometimes you will spot that even though they seem like they are in conversation with you or a group, they are looking in other directions or just giving simple responses like ‘yeah’ every so often. This isn’t them being rude, it’s hard to concentrate when they have so much going on in their mind.
- Verbal signs, like telling people they feel like a burden or not planning for the future because they do not see one. Reaching out is difficult and people may give hints that they need help by saying they feel alone or don’t want to be here anymore.
Stop using the phrase ‘I’m going to kill myself’ as a joke
I think I used to use this phrase a lot because I tried to make humour out of my situation (as I usually do), but then I realised when other people where saying it around me it made me extremely uncomfortable. In 2018, there were 18 suicides a day in the United Kingdom, someone around you when you make this ‘joke’ might be someone who is thinking about suicide. Responding to any situation with this phrase could also be a trigger for a lot of people, even those who are almost fully recovered. Whenever people have said this to me recently I have been deadly serious and asked them if they are okay, you never know what someone is going through.
Things to say instead of ‘I’m going to kill myself’:
- I’m going to smash my head through a fucking wall
- I’m going to body slam the shit out of my reflection
- I’m going to put my fist through a plank of wood
- I’m going to scream endlessly into my pillow until I have blown all the feathers out
- I’m going to bite my teddy bears head off
- I’m going to hide in a cave for 79 years and only live off sand and rain until one day a hiking crew finds me and I become a historical artefact
- I’m going to punch my nan
- I’m going to do a forest gump and literally run away from my problems
You get the idea.
Ask sensitive questions
This one, to me, is extremely important. It is difficult to outright say you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, or any mental health issue for that matter. It can feel as though you are a burden, or you might feel embarrassed over what you are going through because you believe it is attention seeking. I know I thought it would be seen as attention seeking. Asking questions can get someone to open up whilst also making them feel like you want to know what’s going on in their life and how they are doing. Ask them how they’ve been feeling about any events in their life recently, how home life is, if they are managing to spend time alone, if they are struggling to be in social situations ect. It can give people an opportunity to finally speak their mind without feeling like no one wants to listen.
The best way to understand what it going on in someones mind is to educate yourself, you can go on to the WHO website and take a look at videos, the Save website which has a whole load of information on prevention and a lot of others like the Help Guide website, mentalhealth.org and even the NIMH website. The Samaritans is open 24/7 and will pop up whenever you google anything to do with suicide, their phone number is 116 123 which is super easy to remember. The Samaritans is more for those who are suicidal and need someone to talk to, but remembering the name and number can be extremely useful when needing to pass on information on how to get help.
Never get frustrated with them
If someone is refusing to open up, or they are opening up but saying things you do not want to hear, never get frustrated with them. That anger that you project on to them will only make things worse, they can’t help the way that they feel. You wouldn’t get angry at someone who had just told you they had cancer, so why would you get angry when it becomes a mental problem instead of a physical?
Don’t downplay their illness
….because really, it is an illness. Sometimes it genuinely feels like you have been struck with the worst illness of your life, unable to even get out of bed and shower or feed yourself. Let’s imagine it was actually cancer someone just told you they had and lets replace depression with cancer. You wouldn’t say things like ‘ah cancer, yeah I feel like that sometimes’, ‘I guess it could be worse than cancer, people out there are actually dying’ or ‘it’s only cancer, stop dwelling on it and it’ll get better’. Suicide is one of the biggest killers out there, according to WHO an estimated 800,000 people around the world die every year from suicide. That’s one person every 40 seconds.
I still find suicide a difficult topic to talk about, but it’s an extremely important one that we need to work hard to destigmatise. No one should ever feel like they can’t openly talk about the issues they are facing, and everyone should make people close to them feel like they can easily open up.