Saturday, September 30, 2017

Suicide Awareness - The Third of a 7-Part Series

"As the depression lifts, they may suddenly view previously acceptable questions or conversations as inappropriate and may be embarrassed by things they have confided to others. Try to avoid overstepping, and to allow the person a normal amount of privacy."

This is the third of a seven-part series. If you haven't already, you can find the first and second parts here.

Suicide Awareness: Practical Tips

The approaches below have actually helped various people during a suicidal crisis.

Ensuring Safety

Ask the suicidal person if they have planned or thought about how they would commit suicide, and determine whether they have the means (a weapon, pills, etc.) to follow through. If so, make every effort to take them to the emergency room. If that is not possible, remove the means from where the suicidal person is living and don’t leave them alone. Note: Extremely lethal means such as guns ***must*** be removed from the home. Locking them up is not enough.

Identifying Patterns

After his release from the hospital Tom noticed that although he was no longer suicidal he often felt extremely anxious and depressed late in the afternoon. At first he tried to nap during this time, but insomnia made that impossible. So instead, he wound up stuck in his darkest thoughts. It helped him to identify these patterns so he could plan to counteract them.

Identifying Patterns

Tom decided to go for a jog instead of lying down late in the afternoon, and this helped to mediate his anxiety. He also started going to yoga and found that he enjoyed it. For Tom, exercise alleviated anxiety; he discovered that his actions could influence his feelings.

Cognitive Behavioral Training

Carol’s therapist gave her some exercises to use at difficult moments:
  • To fight feelings of unreality or meaninglessness, engage with your surroundings through your senses—touch, smell, listen to, taste, and look at what’s around you.
  • Avoid black and white thinking and worst-case scenarios, which can feed anxiety. Some techniques to correct this type of distorted thinking include doing a cost/benefit analysis about the belief, looking for evidence of its accuracy, testing the theory, asking what you would say to a loved one who thinks that way, and rephrasing the belief in more neutral language. (These and other techniques are described in When Panic Attacks, by David Burns.)

Establishing Routines

Laura was fortunate to be admitted to a good psych ward, which provided structured activities as well as appropriate medication. But once she was released from the hospital, unstructured time made her anxious and all too aware of her disturbing thoughts. Weekend breaks from her outpatient program were especially difficult. With the help of friends and family members Laura created weekend routines involving exercising, socializing, and playing music.

Keeping Things Simple

It’s not useful to discuss complicated emotional issues during an existential crisis. Laura, who is an ex-Mormon, avoided challenging conversations about religion. Likewise, her love life had to be put on hold. She simply found emotional intimacy too stressful at that time. Simpler and less demanding relationships were easier to navigate.


During a mental illness a person may lose some inhibitions. As the depression lifts, they may suddenly view previously acceptable questions or conversations as inappropriate and may be embarrassed by things they have confided to others. Try to avoid overstepping, and to allow the person a normal amount of privacy. This will help as they begin to reclaim their ordinary life. In general, resist the impulse to advise about life decisions. Be respectful about the information that you share with friends. If you need to vent, choose a safe listener such as a therapist. Except in the most extreme circumstances, get the suicidal person’s permission before taking them to an emergency room or admitting them to a hospital.

Self Care

A suicidal person is in sheer, free-falling crisis. Unfortunately, so are that person’s loved ones. It’s terrifying to think of someone you love committing suicide. It’s horrifying to see them in that much pain. Much of the time, there is little friends and family can do but try to provide protection and emotional support as they wait for medication and therapy to take effect—yet that support is crucial. To help someone who wants to die is to sacrifice one’s own needs, time, energy, and emotional comfort in deference to theirs. The prolonged uncertainty can cause severe anxiety. Don’t complain to the suicidal person or ask them to comfort you. Deal with your own feelings constructively: exercise, keep a journal, work on a project, go outside, spend time with friends. And don’t be afraid to set some limits on what you’re able to do.

Tapir Signal is looking for volunteers in a variety of areas including housing, employment, and other practical concerns as well as LGBT issues and suicide awareness. Suicide awareness volunteers must be 21 or older. They should be mental health practitioners and/or have personal or close family experience with suicide.

If you are in need of help, you can reach us here.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-784-2433.

If you are LGBT+ and need to talk, please contact the LGBT National Hotline at 1-888-843-4564 or find them online here.

Know you are safe and among friends and we will do whatever we can to help.

Lastly, if you would like to be involved or volunteer, you can reach out to us here.

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