Suicide may feel like a difficult or awkward topic to bring up, especially if you’re not certain that someone is thinking about taking their own life. However, it’s important to know that talking about it, even if the conversation is brief, can reduce shame and encourage someone who is struggling or at risk to seek out support.
Here are three things everyone should know about suicide.
1) There is no one cause of suicide
While mental health conditions like depression are often associated with suicide, it’s important to know that there is no one cause of suicide. In fact, people may contemplate or attempt suicide for a number of different reasons.
Suicide impacts individuals and communities across all categories of age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and socioeconomic status. While suicide can impact anyone, some populations like LGBTQ+ individuals, young adults and veterans are at a higher risk.
Here are a few risk factors that may increase the chance that someone attempts to take their own life.
Note: It’s important to know that the presence of any of the following factors doesn’t necessarily mean someone is considering suicide. The more factors that are present for an individual, the higher the risk may be.
2) Many suicides can have warning signs
People who are experiencing suicidal thoughts may exhibit one or more warning signs before acting on those thoughts. Some may disclose their intent to a loved one before acting, such as confiding in a friend or family member while others may provide more subtle hints.
In some cases, people exhibit signs in one area of their lives but not in another, so increasing the number of people who are aware of these signs increases the likelihood that we can notice when a person is in distress and get them connected to support. It’s also important to know that not everyone discloses their intent to die by suicide before they act on it. It is not your fault if you “miss” the signs. Chances are, they may not have been there.
If you’re concerned that someone may be at risk of harming themselves, listen to your instincts. Here are a few things to watch out for if you are concerned that someone may be at risk of committing suicide.
3) Suicide is preventable
If you are concerned that a friend, family member, classmate or loved one is at risk of harming themselves or committing suicide, there are ways to help someone find support.
Talk about your concerns
If you’re worried someone may be at risk, find a time to speak with them privately about your concerns. Listen to their story without judgment, and let them know you care about them. If you’re unsure if they have contemplated suicide, ask them gently and directly. For instance, you can say something like, “It sounds like you’ve been going through some tough times lately, and I want to make sure you’re okay. Are you having thoughts of suicide, or are you thinking of killing yourself?” Asking about suicide directly communicates that we’re okay having a deeper conversation with the person about how they’re really doing.
If they say they have thought about suicide or are actively considering suicide, take them seriously. Stay with them to ensure that they are safe. You may need to help identify and remove potential means of suicide from their possession such as drugs/medications or firearms. Connect with crisis support services on their behalf.
Manage your emotions
Bringing up suicide and talking about it can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if someone tells us they have considered suicide. Prepare yourself before starting the conversation, so you can manage your own emotions. When we project our own fears or anxieties, it can cause the other person to shut us out or become more distressed. Take a moment to calm yourself before approaching the person you’re worried about. Remember to reiterate your care and concern.
If you know someone who is struggling, even if they are not considering suicide, it’s important to follow up with them. Check in on them to see what they need, how they’re doing and how you can support them. You can send them a text, give them a call or invite them to hang out and catch up.
If you know someone who is struggling, let them know there are resources available to help and things can get better. Don’t hesitate to call CAPS (303-492-2277) for help if you’re worried about someone’s safety.
Here are some resources that are available to help students, staff and faculty memebrs who are struggling with mental health concerns or thoughts of suicide.