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When Suicide Hits Home

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Hey there Guys,

Today I awoke to the sad news that a beautiful man that I had worked with had taken his life.

They say in that song that “suicide is painless”, but the fact of the matter is it hurts so deeply that today I can hardly concentrate.

Marty was a fantastic man, a father, a husband to his wife and later in life he was able to come out as a gay man. Sadly when multiple issues come together the pain can be too overwhelming. Some people feel so numb, so sad, that they feel the only option left is to take their own life. This is what happened with my friend Marty. This didn’t need to be the case.

Today I wanted to talk about what we as a community can do to help if we have a friend whom we are worried may commit suicide.

What are the warning signs of suicide?

As mentioned at The Better Health Channel:

Predicting suicide is difficult. Changes in behaviour outside the person’s normal range of behaviour, and which do not make sense to those close to them, may be a warning sign.

Other warning signs may include:

  • Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Problem behaviour and substance misuse
  • Apathy in dress and appearance, or a sudden change in weight
  • Sudden and striking personality changes
  • Withdrawal from friends and social activities
  • Increased ‘accident proneness’ and self-harming behaviours.

Important things to remember is that previous suicide attempts, recent significant losses or intoxication increase the risk of suicide. Known depression,  bi-polar disorder or other mental illnesses significantly increase the risk of suicide.

What To Do If Someone Comes To You With Suicidal Thoughts.

The idea that “you can’t stop someone from taking their life” is a myth. It is well researched that the vast majority of people who are contemplating suicide will seek help from family, friends and medical staff in the weeks before taking their life.

If someone has come to you worried it is because a part of them is scared, concerned and does not wish to die. You may be the last person they ever speak to so it’s important you take this discussion very seriously.

By far the most important thing you can do is to be there for them and listen. They have chosen to speak with you because they trust you and feel you can help.

If someone is hinting at potential suicide don’t be afraid to ask the question:

“Mate, you seem pretty down, are you worried you might harm yourself in some way?”

Asking about potential suicide does not increase the risk of someone taking their life. Asking the question allows for the process of help to get started.

Warning signs include.

  • Increasing thoughts of helplessness and hopelessness, like life is not worth living.
  • Increasing thoughts of suicide
  • Actually formulating a plan on how to take their life
  • Having already started actions for that plan, i.e. getting access to a gun or stashes of medications.

Being intoxicated with alcohol or drugs, or a recent significant loss can be the trigger point that leads from mere suicidal thought to actual action.

If your friend has any suicidal thoughts or plans they are at high risk of self harm and must not be left alone.

The most important thing you can do in this situation is to stay with them and to assist in getting help. This can be as straight forward as saying, “look you are in a pretty bad head space at the moment and you need some help, how about I organize for you to see a doctor. I’ll take you”.

If it’s outside office hours for your doctor then the next step is to call your local mental health advisory service or to visit the emergency department.

Even if your friend says they are OK or they’ll be fine it’s important they have a detailed medical assessment. Don’t ever promise to keep this a secret, if someone was saying they had all the symptoms of a heart attack would you keep that a secret?

The good news is that for many suicidal people with care and treatment they are able to pass through the crisis and life another day. Sometimes good people can pass though the cracks. I hope that this post may help reduce those tragic losses.

For additional reading and information be sure to check out these fantastic, well researched files.

Mental Health First Aid For Suicide And Self Harming Behaviour

Suicide Myths, Suicide Warning Signs and What To Do If Someone Is Suicidal

Sane Steps To Help When Someone Is Suicidal

Remember if you unsure about what to do or you feel that the risk of danger is high call an ambulance or police immediately. In Australia the number is 000 (triple zero), USA & Canada: 911, UK: 999, NZ: 111 or you can find your countries number here.

Yours in good health.

Dr George

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