Know the Signs

This is the third in a series of posts for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. You can read part 2 of the series here.

When I was a little kid, I was obsessed with videos about severe storms. I listened carefully as people shared their stories about what they saw and heard in the moments before a storm hit. A few people were caught unaware, but most people recounted that they saw dark clouds on the horizon, noticed that the winds picked up or died down quickly, or even saw animals acting differently than usual. As these were the days before I could view weather radar on demand, I kept these signs in mind as I played and worked outside, ready to take action at a moment’s notice.

In a similar way, knowing the warning signs of suicide can help us be better prepared to help a friend or family member if the need arises. There are some very evident signs:

  • talking about death or dying
  • expressing that they have no hope for the future or feel helpless
  • making plans to die or researching ways to die

There are some more subtle signs that a person is considering suicide or at risk:

  • changes in behavior, such as sleeping much more or less than usual
  • withdrawing from everyday life activities, including spending time with friends or family
  • engaging in risky behaviors, such as excessive drugs/alcohol use, driving too fast, or getting in fights

Then there are signs we might not immediately recognize:

  • giving away prized possessions
  • an extreme change in mood, going from down or depressed to seemingly happy or at peace

Being aware of warning signs of suicide increases the likelihood that you will be able to notice if something is changing with a friend or family member and that you will be able to take appropriate action to help. If you notice any of these signs in a friend or family member, don’t be afraid to start a discussion about what you’ve noticed. You are not putting an idea in their head by asking a question. In fact, you may be offering them a chance to share their feelings and express a need for help.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, dial 911 and request immediate help. You can also call or text 988 and speak to a trained professional about your concerns. They will be able to provide assistance and connect you with appropriate resources.

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