A Healing Hand: A Counselor's Perspective on Addressing Suicidal Thoughts, Part II
Suicide can be a scary thing to think about. No one wants to picture a loved one taking their own life or even envision themselves making the choice. However, as scary as the thought can be, suicide needs to be discussed. There are so many people suffering in silence in our country, whether it be from suicidal thoughts or the loss of a loved one to suicide. Suicide can feel taboo or like an unmentionable, but the sooner we break the silence, the sooner more people can get the help that they need.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2016. If we break that data down further, the numbers reveal that suicide was the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 10-34 and the 4th leading cause of death for ages 34-52. I don’t know about you, but these numbers are alarming. I can only wonder if some of those losses could have been prevented if our culture was more willing to have the conversation.
Speaking of having the conversation, I want to acknowledge that asking someone if they are suicidal can be difficult, terrifying, and uncomfortable. That does not mean that it should not happen. What I would like for you to consider is that there are ways to feel more prepared for that conversation. I want to spend the rest of our time together preparing you. If there is someone in your life that you are concerned about, hopefully this can help you get that person help.
Let’s start at the beginning. How can we identify someone that is at-risk for suicide or may be considering suicide?
Here are some common warning signs that someone may be suicidal:
- They are exhibiting symptoms of depression or anxiety
- They begin to withdraw or isolate themselves
- They talk about wanting to die or kill themselves
- They start giving away prized possessions
- They talk about feeling burdensome to others
- They talk about wanting revenge or to get even
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Increased risky behavior or recklessness
- They talk about feeling hopeless, worthless, or like their life has no meaning
- Sleep disturbances ranging from oversleeping to insomnia
- They may have a change in personality or experience frequent mood swings
If you are noticing any of those behaviors in someone that you know, address them. The person may not actually be suicidal, but it is better to talk about it than not. I also want to point out that having the conversation is not going to give them the idea to take their life either, so don’t feel like your conversation will turn into an invitation. The goal is to show that you care about what they are going through and that you want to support them.
Some helpful points to remember for the conversation:
- Listen non-judgementally
- Take what is being said seriously
- Avoid comparing their situation to something else
- Suggest they see a professional and offer to go with them
- Let them know you care and that they are not alone
If your loved one indicates that they are suicidal, the next step is to get help. There are professionals at UNT that are willing to help you and the person you are worried for. Even if you do not feel comfortable asking your friend if they are suicidal, but you are concerned about their safety, you can reach out to them.
Counseling & Testing: http://studentaffairs.unt.edu/counseling-and-testing-services
Psychology Clinic: https://psychology.unt.edu/clinics-and-centers/psychology-clinic
UNT Well: https://untwell.unt.edu/home
Child & Family Resource Clinic: https://www.coe.unt.edu/child-and-family-resource-clinic
Counseling and Human Development Center: https://www.coe.unt.edu/counseling-and-human-development-center
CARE Team: http://studentaffairs.unt.edu/care
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, here are some crisis lines you can call to speak to someone about what you are going through.
Denton County Crisis Hotline: 800-762-0157
Dallas Suicide and Crisis Center: 214-828-1000
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
- Press 1 if veteran
- Dial 888-628-9454 for Spanish
You can also text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the US anytime for any crisis
If you would like to be formally trained to respond to mental health crisis, check out the Mental Health First Aid trainings or look into QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer).
QPR trainings are offered on campus monthly, every 2nd Monday from 2-3:30 PM. You can find the location for the training on the UNT Counseling and Testing calendar on our website.
Links with more information:
Link to Part I of this Series: https://untunion.wordpress.com/2018/09/10/a-healing-hand-a-counselors-perspective-on-addressing-suicidal-thoughts-part-i/