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Thoughts of suicide are incredibly scary and it is a challenging subject to have to tackle, either as the person with those thoughts, or as a person with concerns about a friend or family member with those thoughts. The most important thing one can do in a situation where thoughts of suicide have arisen is to either talk to someone about it, or to encourage whoever is going through those thoughts to talk to someone. There are plenty of outlets in Galway that can offer a non-judgemental listening service where your feelings can be articulated, fleshed out and discussed with a professional. Communication and conversation will allow suicidal thoughts to be understood and approached in a more open way. If the thoughts are left to fester in one’s mind, then they may worsen and there is less chance of any new perspectives coming to light. Talking about it will help to disperse those feelings, or at least allow them to be approached in a more communicative and far less isolated way.
If you are at risk, you can contact:
- The Student Health Unit: http://www.nuigalway.ie/health_unit/
(office hours) 091 492604 (out of hours) 087 262 3997 (walk in, Mon-Fri) 9.15-12.30 and 2.30-4.30
- Your local GP;
- Any hospital via the Accident & Emergency department (24/7);
- Samaritans: Freephone 116 123 or http://www.samaritans.org/branches/samaritans-galway
Other services include:
I am worried that a friend or family member may be having suicidal thoughts
You can be very worried about one of your friends or a family member without you thinking that they are suicidal. However, you will probably have a gut feeling if something is really wrong with a friend or family member. Asking them about whether they have thought of suicide will NOT cause them to kill themselves. Asking them may mean they talk about their difficulties, which makes it less likely that they will attempt suicide.
Remember thoughts about suicide can be quite common, particularly for young adults. Having suicidal thoughts does not mean your friend will kill themselves, but it probably does indicate that they are not very happy and could do with some help.
There are various indicators that may suggest to you that a friend or family member may be having suicidal thoughts, or be at higher risk:
- Significant changes of behaviour, e.g. becoming withdrawn and isolated, stopping doing what they used to do
- Your friend is depressed
- If someone they know has committed suicide, or has tried to commit suicide. This warning sign is greater if the suicide was recent
- They are talking about suicide or you discover them searching for ways to kill oneself on the internet, or you find they are storing large amounts of tablets
- They have increased how much alcohol they are drinking or are taking a lot of drugs
- They are very angry – either at others (perhaps at you) or at themselves (punching walls etc.)
- They have very high expectations of how they should be at university and this puts a lot of pressure upon them
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and despair (e.g. “what’s the point” … “I’ll never achieve anything” …
- They have previously tried to kill themselves
- They have a detailed suicide plan (if this is the case you must speak to a professional immediately)
- A recent trauma (this could be through being bullied, attacked or having a health scare)
- Someone close to them has recently died
- They tell you they feel trapped: “I can’t see any way out …”
- They are engaging in risky or reckless behaviour (this is often to do with drink/drugs, but can be crossing the road without looking)
- They have a preoccupation with death
- They are suddenly not taking care of themselves – so not eating, washing, dressing well, using make up etc.
- They have lost interest in activities and people they used to engage with
- Suddenly making out a will or taking out life insurance
- They have sudden mood swings - a sudden lift in mood after a period of depression when they seem calmer and happier could indicate they have made the decision to attempt suicide. There is a particular risk of suicide when someone who has been suffering from depression is just beginning to recover. They may have the energy to kill themselves that they lacked when they were severely depressed. It is really important to talk to your friend about this if they suddenly seem happier
- They talk and act in a way that suggests their life has no sense of purpose
- They are giving things away, such as prized possessions.
It may be hard for you, but talking openly about the possibility of suicide will not make it more likely to happen. Just being there for the person and listening in an accepting way can help them feel less isolated and frightened. Don’t think what they are saying is just attention seeking. Always take suicidal ideation seriously, but do not take responsibility for your friends’ actions.
It can be hard to know what to do in these situations but the acronym ALDOER can help
Ask. Asking if a person feels suicidal is very unlikely to put the idea into their head, and they may feel relieved to talk.
Listen. Take what your friend says seriously, and try to understand their perspective of the situation. Your friend may be able to tell you what they need and who might help.
Discuss. Try to discover what might make a difference without imposing your solutions on the situation.
Offer practical help towards problem solving - e.g. if you’re worried about missing a deadline let us both go and speak to your tutor tomorrow.
Encourage. Try and get your friend to seek help and talk to someone they trust.
Refer. Do not take sole responsibility for the situation. Sensitively indicate that you are concerned enough to arrange for further help, even if it means breaking a confidence.
The aim is to help them find help. It is important to persuade someone who is feeling suicidal to get some professional help. You do not have professional training, so persuade them to go to someone who does. Your doctor is a good starting point, as they can refer to a number of treatments. Or accompany your friend to the counselling service, where they can receive help.
Be aware – If your friend or family member went through a turbulent patch where the possibility of suicide was there, but they have since come out of it, it is important that you remain vigilant and that you continue to be aware of their feelings and behaviour. After a period of intense distress your friend may appear better and calmer. This could be the sign of recovery, but it could also indicate they are settled on killing themselves.
Look after yourself – By helping someone with suicidal thoughts, you are likely to feel some of their difficult emotions – angry, guilty, helpless - and may find yourself contemplating your own mortality. This is hard, but normal. Make sure you find someone – whether a friend, family member, a professional, or a carers' support group – in whom you can confide. Compile your own support list. The more you look after yourself, the better you can look after others.
I am worried about myself and the suicidal thoughts I have been having
If you feel that you are at risk of attempting suicide, then please contact one of the various helplines available through which you can communicate with someone who will try to help you understand what you are feeling. Conversation, having someone there to listen to you, and even just venting what you feel, will help to alleviate some of the worst feelings that you may have. Please do not feel that you have to suffer in silence.
The most helpful thing to do right now is to talk to someone.
Go and find a friend to speak to and tell them how you are feeling.
If no one is around, then call a friend or a family member.
Talking to others is usually the best thing you can do if you are feeling suicidal. By speaking to them you will recognise that people care about you. Your friends and family want to help you, but they can’t if you do not tell them. Your friends and family can listen to you, and offer emotional support, but they can also offer practical help, and take you to see a professional, if that is appropriate. If you have been very good at pretending to others that everything is alright, don’t be surprised if your friends or family are initially shocked by your suicidal disclosure or action. Remember, it will take them time to come to terms with how unhappy you are, just as it has taken you time to recognise your despair.
Suicidal thoughts may come in waves or be stronger at certain points of the day. Try and be aware of when these feelings occur, so that, when they do, you can try and have a more collected approach to them. Try to look at these feelings through the perspective of when they occur and why. If you notice a pattern – e.g. it is common to feel more suicidal when you are on your own at night – then create a risk management plan.
Make a list of everyone who you could call if you wanted to. Keep this with you
Minimise the risk – remove all the things you need to carry out your suicide plan, or at least make them difficult to get to e.g. make sure that you have only small quantities of medication in the house, ask your housemate to look after all the knives, put the bottle of vodka in a high cabinet in the kitchen. What you are trying to do here is place barriers you have to overcome in order to kill yourself. While walking downstairs to get the vodka, and then going to the bathroom to get the medication, is not insurmountable, it provides you with valuable extra time in which your positive, life-affirming voice can be heard
Distract yourself from your suicidal thoughts. As these thoughts are usually very intense, it is important you can find some way to take a break from them. Other people are usually the best form of distraction, but TV, happy music, looking anew at nature, and exercise will all help
Set yourself small goals for engaging with other people and beginning new activities. People who commit suicide often are very disconnected, so the more well-connected you can be, the better your chances of surviving suicidal thoughts
Regular exercise, yoga, meditation all can energise you and help to reduce tension
Food also influences your mood directly. If you are misusing alcohol and drugs, then cutting down on these will make your mind clearer and better able to deal with your suicidal thoughts
Writing a diary - If you have started to notice your thoughts and feelings, you might like to write about them in a daily diary. Over time, this can give you fresh insight and increase your ability to respond to your difficulties differently. If you are having problems finding the right words, creating artworks based on your feelings can be a powerful alternative
Try and become more compassionate to yourself. One way to do this is to think what you would say to a friend who was feeling like you do
Check medication side effects - Be aware that some anti-depressant medication can increase the risk of suicidal thinking, especially when you first start taking them. Also, when the medication first starts taking effect, it can increase your energy and motivation before improving your mood, increasing the risk of acting on suicidal thoughts. Talk to your doctor about the risks
Minimise time spent alone -Depression and suicidal thinking thrive in isolation. Try to minimise time spent alone in your room - take work to the library, ask friends to be with you at vulnerable times, make plans ahead for weekends and other lonelier times
Identify depressed thinking habits -Suicidal thinking is the ultimate all-or-nothing thinking habit, and the culmination of other habits of depressed thinking
Find other ways to relieve your pain - Suicidal intentions are prompted by a desperate need for relief from intensely painful feelings. This can be hard to do on your own, so seek help
Speak to your Doctor – Your doctor really needs to know if you are feeling suicidal. They are trained to help with suicidal patients and have the widest range of help and treatments to offer to you. They may recommend an antidepressant, and/or refer you to a counsellor, or to see a psychiatrist. They can also refer you to hospital or community-based care.
A great many people think about suicide, but the majority do not go on to kill themselves. Like them, you can help yourself and you can get help from other people. There is no feeling so terrible that it cannot be changed. You deserve help, no matter what. Try some of the ideas here for helping yourself, or let someone else guide you through this crisis.
“I treat my suicidal thoughts like obsessive thoughts. They can often pop up as images or ideas, particularly when I'm feeling stressed or worthless. Every time a suicidal thought appears, I sound a mental whistle in my head and imagine a stop sign. I will not let myself think about the suicidal thoughts — they are not going to control my life.”