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How to Help Someone Who May Be Suicidal

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offering help to someone feeling suicidal Andrea Morini/Photodisc/Thinkstock

There are few things more frightening than knowing that a friend or family member is so despondent that he or she sees no reason to go on living.

Suicides now account for more deaths than car accidents, so concerns about suicide should not be taken lightly. Knowing the warning signs, and how best to intervene, may help save a life.

Know the signs

The first step in helping a suicidal person is recognizing the signs that he or she might be contemplating suicide. A loved one may simply express suicidal inclinations.

It’s important to always take these threats seriously. Generally, a person is more likely to commit suicide if he or she has thought about how it would be carried out and has access to the means to complete the plan.

People who have brief moments of suicidal ideation due to extreme stress are less likely to go through with it, but still are at risk. If you’re not sure if your friend is feeling suicidal, or are not sure how serious the threat is, look for some common warning signs:

• Social isolation. People who cut off ties with their social network, or who don’t have a strong support system in the first place, are much more likely to harm themselves.

• Giving things away or saying goodbye.

• Devising a specific plan and acquiring the means to complete it.

• A sudden elevation in mood after a long bout of depression. People who intend to end their lives often feel relief when they think they’ve found a way out.

• Engaging in self-destructive behavior such as drug use or excessive drinking.

• Feelings of worthlessness. People who were previously sad about a loss and who now blame themselves may be contemplating suicide. People who remark that everyone would be better off without them also often feel suicidal.

Safety first

If someone you know shows signs that he or she might be suicidal, do not leave that person alone. If you can’t be with the person, ask if there is someone you can call to ensure his or her safety.

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