Unfortunately, the holiday season isn’t merry and bright for everyone. The number of suicides and suicide attempts actually increase during the holidays.
If you’re reading this and struggling with suicidal thoughts, the National Suicidal Prevention Lifeline is available to you 24/7. It’s free and confidential: 1-800-273-8255.
According to the CDC, over 38,000 Americans lose their lives to suicide every year. Male deaths make up 79% of those deaths, though women are more likely to attempt suicide or have suicidal thoughts.
Those numbers are staggering when one death due to suicide is too many. So how do we help prevent it? It’s always easier to see all the signs you missed looking back, but if you have any suspicion your loved one might be struggling with thoughts of suicide, here are some warning signs you can look for in friends and family members.
- Talking about Suicide – This seems like stating the obvious, but some people believe that talking about suicide means the person won’t actually attempt it. This is not true. Talking about suicide is a cry for help and should be taken seriously.
- Preoccupation with Death – If your loved one has an unusual focus on death or dying, then that may be a sign they’re thinking about suicide.
- Self-loathing – Your loved one makes comments like, “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I’m worthless and not needed.”
- Saying Goodbye – Getting an unexpected phone call or visit from a loved one where they say what seems like a final goodbye.
- Withdrawal – Your loved one isolates themselves from family and friends.
- Getting Affairs in Order – Seemingly unwarranted, your loved one makes a will or starts giving away prized possessions.
- Sudden Sense of Calm – At first this may seem like a good thing, but if after being extremely depressed, a sudden sense of calm may indicate that they have decided to attempt suicide.
- No Hope – When people commit suicide they believe that death is the only way to end their pain. They see no other hope for the future or way out of their suffering.
What do you do if you recognize these signs in your loved ones?
- Reach out and let them know you’re concerned for them and offer any help you can.
- Listen genuinely to their problems and take them seriously.
- Do not promise confidentiality. Their life is at stake and you may need to talk to a professional about the problem for their own good. You want to be able to do so without breaking your word.
- Be sympathetic and offer hope.
- Be informed about suicide by doing your research. Here is a great place to get started: http://www.save.org/about-suicide/
The holiday season also offers people hope, and I believe if we hold the power to give that hope away if we all become more diligent about making sure everyone we come into contact with knows they are loved and their life has value. Smile at strangers. Listen to your loved ones. Choose kindness; it may save a life.