Suicide Prevention for Adults
What do I need to know about suicide prevention? Your loved one may see suicide as the only way to escape emotional or physical pain and suffering. Call 911 if you feel your loved one is at immediate risk of suicide, or if he talks about an active suicide plan. Assume that he intends to carry out his plan. Watch for warning signs, and get him the help he needs.
What should I do if I think my loved one is considering suicide? Resources are available to help you and your loved one. You can help provide emotional support for him and get the help he needs:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Suicide Hotline: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
- Contact your loved one's therapist. Your loved one's caregiver can give you a list of therapists if he does not have one.
- Keep medicines, weapons, and alcohol out of your loved one's reach. Do not leave your loved one alone. Stay with him if he says he wants to commit suicide or you think he may try it. Make sure you do not put yourself at risk if he has a weapon.
- Do not be afraid to ask if he is thinking of ending his life. Ask if he has a plan for hurting or killing himself. Ask what he would use to kill himself and if he has it.
What warning signs should I watch for?
- Your loved one talks about his plan for committing suicide, or suddenly decides to make a will.
- Your loved one cuts himself, burns his skin with cigarettes, or drives recklessly.
- Your loved one stops taking his prescribed medicine, or he takes too much.
- Your loved one withdraws from others or stops doing things he enjoys.
- Your loved one has trouble functioning at work.
- You notice changes in the way your loved one eats, sleeps, or dresses. He may gain or lose weight, or have less energy than usual. He may have trouble sleeping or spend a lot of time sleeping.
What increases my loved one's risk for suicide?
Depression or mental illness: Depression is the main reason people attempt suicide. Alcohol and drug abuse can increase depression and thoughts of suicide. The death of an important person, or the anniversary of a death, can cause intense grief and depression. Mental illness, such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also increase the risk of suicide.
Physical illness: Chronic pain can be overwhelming. A serious illness, such as heart disease, cancer, or AIDS, may make your loved one feel hopeless. He may feel helpless if he has to depend on others to survive or function.
Suicide history: Your loved one's risk is higher if he has attempted suicide before. He is also at risk if someone close to him attempted or committed suicide.
Mental, physical, or sexual abuse: Your loved one may be in a relationship that is not healthy or is abusive. He may have a history of violence or aggression toward others. He may feel guilty for hurting someone else. Frustration, anger, or feelings of revenge can lead to thoughts of suicide.
Relationship stress: Stress can come from divorce or a breakup, or loss of a friendship. Your loved one may live alone, or have few friends or family members. He may have lost custody of a child.
Sexual orientation: Your loved one may struggle with being gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Work stress: Your loved one may feel overwhelmed by the loss of a job, or a stressful job.
How will caregivers help my loved one?
Assess his risk: Caregivers will examine your loved one and screen him for depression. They will ask questions about his suicide thoughts and plans. They will ask how often he thinks about suicide and if he has tried it before. They will ask if he has begun to hurt himself, such as with cutting or reckless driving. They may ask if he has access to weapons or drugs.
Create a safety plan: Caregivers may ask your loved one to make a safety plan. This will include a list of people or groups for him to contact if he has suicidal feelings again. He may be asked to make a verbal agreement or sign a contract that he will not try to harm himself. His belt or shoelaces may be removed so he cannot harm himself.
Recommend care: Caregivers may refer your loved one to a psychiatrist. Your loved one may choose to be admitted to a psychiatric care unit. His caregiver may admit him if he feels your loved one is not safe on his own or with others.
What treatment may my loved one need?
Medicines: Medicine can help him feel well enough to continue with all of the treatment he needs.
Antidepressants: These help reduce and control symptoms of depression. Rarely, antidepressants can make a person more likely to act on his suicidal thoughts. Your loved one will need to take this medication as directed. He must not stop taking this medicine unless directed. A sudden stop can be harmful. It may take 4 to 6 weeks for the medicine to help him feel better.
Mood stabilizers: These help prevent mood swings.
Antipsychotics: These help decrease symptoms of severe agitation and anger.
Problem-solving: This kind of therapy helps your loved one find the best way to solve problems. It may also help reduce his desire to commit suicide when he is faced with hard times.
Behavioral: Your loved one may need therapy to help reduce negative thoughts.
How can I help my loved one?
- Encourage him to seek help for drug or alcohol abuse. Drugs and alcohol can make suicidal feelings worse and make your loved one more likely to act on them.
- Exercise with him. Exercise can lift his mood, give him more energy, and make it easier for him to sleep at night.
- Help him create a sleep routine. Sleep is important for emotional health. Your loved one should try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Let your loved one's caregiver know if he is having difficulty sleeping.
- Do activities with him that he enjoys. Simple things your loved one enjoys can help lift his spirits. He may want to keep a journal of his thoughts and feelings, including things he values.
- Schedule a visit with his religious or spiritual leader. This person may be able to offer additional support and resources to your loved one.
- Call a financial advisor for help with your loved one's money trouble if appropriate.
Where can I find more information?
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
New York , NY 10004
Phone: 1- 800 - 273-TALK (8255)
Web Address: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Suicide Awareness Voices of Education
8120 Penn Ave. S., Ste. 470
Bloomington , Minnesota 55431
Phone: 1- 952 - 946-7998
Web Address: http://www.save.org
When should I contact my loved one's caregiver? Contact your loved one's caregiver if:
- Your loved one has intense feelings of sadness, anger, revenge, or despair, or he cannot make decisions easily.
- Your loved one tells you he has more thoughts of suicide when he is alone.
- Your loved one withdraws from others.
- Your loved one stops eating, or begins to smoke or drink heavily.
- Your loved one feels he is a burden because of a disability or disease.
- Your loved one has trouble dealing with stress, such as a breakup or a job loss.
- You have questions or concerns about your loved one's condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care? Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- Your loved one has done something on purpose to hurt himself or tries to commit suicide.
- Your loved one tells you he made a plan to commit suicide.
- Your loved one acts out in anger, is reckless, or is abusing alcohol or drugs.
- Your loved one has serious thoughts of suicide, even with treatment.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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