Understanding suicide, the warning signs, and how to create a safety plan to help yourself or support others

Is it you who suffers from suicidal thoughts and feelings, or is it someone you know who does? If you’ve never suffered from suicidal thoughts, you may find it difficult to understand. Know this, suicidal thoughts or ideations can’t be willed, bargained, or pleaded away, and they are not used to manipulate or get attention.

It can be very lonely and incredibly isolating to suffer from feelings of suicide and it is hard to talk about such complicated feelings. As hard as it is to love someone who suffers from suicidal thoughts, here are things to know about it:

  • Knowing the signs of risk can make it easier to know when you or your loved one needs help. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) developed a suicide screening tool that can be used to identify children and teens who are having suicidal thoughts. Computer-based algorithms can help doctors predict a patient’s risk of suicide which makes addressing the issue and following up with those at risk easier.
  • If you or your loved one is in emotional pain, it is hard to know if the risk of suicide is imminent. Here are warning signs that are easy to recognize:
    • Talking about dying or wanting to die
    • Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, and lost
    • Strong, unmanageable feelings of guilt and shame
    • Believing there is no reason to live or that others would be better off without them
    • Socially withdrawn and isolation
    • Giving away personal items and wrapping up loose ends
    • Saying goodbye to friends and family
  • Signs that are harder to identify 
    • Changes in behavior are easy to overlook but necessary to recognize. Changes might include depression, hopelessness, unusually kind, sad, or angry with mood swings of happiness, and seeming at peace.
  • Sleeping patterns that change can be a sign of depression and suicidal ideations. Some might sleep more than normal, struggling to get out of bed while others might suffer from insomnia. 
  • Accessing the means to take one’s life. This could be the purchase of a gun, a stockpiling of pills. This stage can be hard to identify and important to notice because, with the lethal means to kill oneself, suicide becomes a greater risk
  • Isolating, detachment, and emotionally distancing oneself from people, and normal activities can be a sign that someone is at risk for suicide. themselves socially. 
  • Unexplained physical pain may be a symptom of depression and a warning sign to suicide.

What can you do if you or someone you care about is at risk of suicide? Suicide isn’t a topic of conversation that anyone wants to have with a loved one or yourself for that matter but talking about it can save a life. Here are action steps to take for yourself or to help a loved one who suffers from suicidal ideations.

Ask the hard question, “Are you thinking about suicide? This allows the person the opportunity to openly talk about those feelings in a supportive and non-judgmental space. Never promise to keep their struggle with suicide a secret.

Talking about suicide and suicidal ideations do not place those that suffer at a greater risk. Instead, by openly communicating you can help them focus on their reasons for living.

Be available for support through a phone call or visit. Most important is to follow through with what you say you will do, so you remain reliable support. Help to curate a list of people that can be available for support in their time of need.

Once the threat of suicide is established, it is important to gain insight into their immediate safety by asking about their suicide plan. Ask the question, directly, “Do you have a plan to kill yourself, when, where, and how” and knowing their access to their plan is the best way to keep those at risk safe.

By knowing how serious they’ve contemplated suicide, you can ascertain the danger and risk level. If there is a plan in place and access to the means, calling the authorities or taking them to the emergency room is the next step.

Connecting to resources and creating a safety net and plan helps support them when in crisis. Things to consider in a safety plan:

  • A safety plan is a written action plan that is meaningful to the person at risk
  • Note and list the situations, images, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to or accompany suicidal urges. Being cognizant of the warning signs can help to know how to manage them when they arise.
  • Create a list of activities that are soothing when situations make you feel triggered. This list might include meditation, breathing exercises, and other ways to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Write down your reason for living. This list can help you focus on your reasons to keep going until the suicidal feelings and thoughts dissipate.
  • Create a trusted contact list that will make it easier to reach out and get support when needed.
  • A list or professional resources like the suicide crisis line and your mental health team.
  • Ensure your environment is free of any items that can be harmful.
  • Identify public places where you can go if being alone becomes unsafe.

At Healing Springs Ranch, every patient comes with their own unique circumstances and challenges and is deserving of a personal, custom approach to recovery. Often, that means intense, individual, and group counseling that emphasizes mental health. At Healing Springs Ranch, comprehensive health is always a priority. Call 866-656-8384 to learn more about your recovery today.