Life isn't always easy and our emotions can get the better of us sometimes. They can completely negate our logical thinking simply because we are overwhelmed with a particular feeling. With the number of youth currently experiencing anxiety and depression, suicide is a common headline these days. It's no longer an issue that can be glossed over. What we need now is to open our eyes to it and be aware of what youth are feeling. We need to make an effort to learn how to support them through it. I think getting informed, understanding what to look for and how to intervene is the best way to say "I care!"
As I was reading about the signs to look for and the behaviours to notice when I was in school learning about suicide ideation from an academic perspective, I found myself going back in my head and remembering my own behaviour. I realized that I had exhibited the very signs I was reading about before each attempt...of course, that was before I knew that those behaviours could be interpreted as "signs."
5 Signs to Watch For
- Bringing the topic of suicide into unrelated conversations. If a youth is continually mentioning suicide in conversations without a direct link, it is their way of reaching out to others for support.
- Sudden, unexplained changes in mood and attitude, when the youth's circumstances haven't changed. Suicide usually follows a distinct period of depression and isolation. If you notice that someone has an uplifted attitude without a clear indication of where it came from, it might be the expression of relief they are feeling because they have developed a suicide plan.
- Giving away prized or sentimental items to the people around them. If a youth is giving away possessions that have significant meaning to them, seemingly without a reason for doing so, it may indicate that they are passing along something by which to be remembered.
- Describing their situation as helpless, hopeless or never-ending. The consistent use of language that has a tone of finality indicates that they have convinced themselves that there is no other way out of the pain they are experiencing. Hearing language like this should act like a trigger and send up red flags in regard to how the youth is feeling. If someone is constantly telling themselves that nothing is ever going to get better, that's a daunting prospect that can't be easily overcome.
- Losing interest in activities and personal appearance. When a youth no longer wishes to participate in activities that they regularly attend and found contentment in, it notes a significant loss of interest. Similarly, if they took pride in their appearance and have seemingly stopped caring about their appearance and hygiene, it is a sign they have given up on their will to move forward.
There are more than these five signs to indicate a youth is considering taking their own life, but these are the most common and easiest things to notice. A youth exhibiting any ONE of these signs may be having suicidal thoughts, which means, the sooner you intervene, the better...
5 Things You Can Do To Help
- If you notice any one of these signs, ask them if they are considering suicide. There's a common misconception that asking a young person if they are considering suicide will put the idea into their head. If you are worried that a youth is thinking about suicide, first tell them you are concerned and then ask them if they are.
- Refrain from using dismissive language. Saying things like "you're not looking at the bigger picture" or "it will get better" invalidate their feelings and sound judgmental. Do not assume or accuse them of looking for attention. Your goal is to get the person to talk. Use language that shows your intent to clarify what they are feeling or experiencing.
- Listen to what they have to say. Give them the time to articulate their feelings. Also understand that if you ask a question that is met by silence, they are not ignoring you. They are trying to sift through the thoughts running through their head, in order to get to what you've asked.
- Set up a safety plan with the youth that creates a clear set of steps that can be followed when the youth is experiencing a crisis (stay tuned for a blog about creating a safety plan).
- Make a commitment to check in with them at least once a day at a specified time. If something comes up and you are unable to make that call, let them know as soon as possible and set up an alternate time to talk to them.
I said it at the beginning of the blog, and I'll say it again now, suicide is not about wanting to die, suicide is about wanting the pain to stop and convincing yourself that ending your life is the only course of action that will work.
As always, if you want to chat about youth mental health, feel free to send me an email or contact me here at the CEED Centre, 604 463 2229!