On average, one person commits suicide every 12 minutes.* While mental health isn’t always a topic that people readily want to discuss, it is one of the most important conversations you can have with someone.
There is no single cause of suicide. Oftentimes, people who appear to be in stable mental health can harbor feelings of hopelessness and depression that can lead them to take desperate actions. Other factors like job stress, family history, and bullying can also lead someone to take their own life.*
Usually, they give signals that something is wrong. In fact, 4 out of 5 people will give some sort of sign that they are contemplating suicide, though these are often recognized only in retrospect after it’s too late to be of any help. It is important to notice these warnings ahead of time – and just as important is that you do something about them. Pay particular attention to drastic things like changes in behavior and acts of self-harm, or more subtle cues like overly self-deprecative jokes or lack of interest in future plans. When you see them, don’t dismiss them or try to convince yourself that you’re overreacting. There’s a real chance you’re not.
Intervening can be tricky and it can be uncomfortable, but it can also save the life of someone you care for. Make sure to lend a listening ear to those you think may be suicidal. Try not to be judgmental, or act surprised when someone starts to discuss the state of their mental health or thoughts of suicide. Remain as open and understanding as possible when helping someone through those thoughts.
Also, keep in mind that you’re not a professional counselor. You shouldn’t have to take on the challenge of helping someone with suicidal thoughts all by yourself. Seek help for someone you think may end their life, and talk with them about getting the professional support they need. Always be honest with friends or loved ones who show symptoms of suicidal thoughts, and remind them that they are loved, cared for and wanted.
Kindness can go far, and your words can have a profound impact on those struggling with mental health.
If you’re the one who is contemplating suicide or battling against depression, remember that life does get better. While it may seem like suicide is the only way – or easiest way – out, what we know from those who have attempted suicide and failed to tell us otherwise.
In San Francisco, for example, nearly everyone who’s survived an attempt to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge tells how they recognized almost immediately – while they were still falling, or even as their hands let go of the railing – that they had made a terrible decision.
One survivor said, “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable – except for having just jumped.”*
Remember that there are people who love you and that there is value to your life. Also, understand that your decision isn’t just going to affect you alone. According to studies, each suicide immediately affects at least 6 other people.
Your life matters. Your decisions matter. Most importantly, YOU matter. You’re not alone.
If you are contemplating suicide, and need help, please call the toll-free Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
You can also find support groups, information, and other resources at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/
*All information in this article is believed to be true. Sources include: