suicide prevention - a couple holding hands

Suicide is preventable: Four alarming signs to look out for

Posted by Andile Sicetsha

Suicide is a pandemic that many communities around the world fail to acknowledge. Every 40 seconds, a human being, somewhere in this vast planet, takes his or her own life.

Suicide triggers – Let’s talk about it

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), this rampant mental health issue is, for the most part, preventable and there are many factors to consider in getting to the crux of why people commit suicide.

Depression and anxiety are known triggers of suicidal behaviour but there are a plethora of other contributing factors that prompt some people to view self-inflicted fatality as ‘the only way out’.

These are often unique to the person and their circumstance. However, the WHO believes that with the right amount of knowledge and freely available resources, we can save our loved ones from taking their own life.

Four signs to look out for in a suicidal person

Rehabilitating the mind of a suicidal person begins with providing support and being available to listen to the person with an open mind, the global health authority says.

“Asking about suicide does not provoke the act of suicide. It often reduces anxiety and helps people feel understood.”

World Health Organisation, World Suicide Prevention Day

Before you pick up the phone to send professional help, the mission to prevent your loved one from attempting suicide should start with you, the caregiver, the friend, the sibling, the parent.

Here are four alarming signs to look out for in a person who may be contemplating suicide:

  • Threatening to kill oneself.
  • Saying things like “No-one will miss me when I am gone.”
  • Looking for ways to kill oneself, such as seeking access to pesticides, firearms or medication, or browsing the internet for means of taking one’s own life.
  • Saying goodbye to close family members and friends, giving away valued possessions, or writing a will.

Of course, there are many more intricate behavioural signals that indicate a cry for help. Some of these include excessive drug abuse, unstable mood swings and unusual behaviour on social media.

According to WHO, there are four things you can do to help, before contacting a suicide prevention centre.

  • Find an appropriate time and a quiet place to talk about suicide with the person you are worried about. Let them know that you are there to listen.
  • Encourage the person to seek help from a professional, such as a doctor, mental health professional, counsellor or social worker and most importantly, offer to accompany them to an appointment.
  • If you think the person is in immediate danger, do not leave him or her alone. Seek professional help from the emergency services, a crisis line, or a health-care professional, or turn to family members.
  • If the person you are worried about lives with you, ensure that he or she does not have access to means of self-harm (for example pesticides, firearms or medication) in the home.
  • Stay in touch to check how the person is doing.

In South Africa, there are many resourceful organisations that are ready to assist you and your loved one in dealing with suicidal triggers.

The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) is the country’s largest mental health advocacy group and their 24-hour hotline is free to use if you or a loved one needs help. You can reach them on 0800 456 789 (24 hours a day), SMS 31393, or visit their website for more info and help.