I found these pieces of advice on Twitter or Facebook (I can’t remember which one came from where), and when it comes to preventing suicide, I feel I need to comment:
“Be careful, you never know what someone is hiding in their lives.”
I bring this one up because people considering suicide may try to hide what is going on in their lives, and do a very good job at it. However, most of the time, people who are suicidal want someone to notice, to know, and to engage with them about what is going on in their lives. In spite of efforts to hide pain, wondering, “Why doesn’t anyone notice something is wrong?” may be a part of the suicidal thinking. It is a mistake to assume that someone who attempts or completes suicide truly wanted to die. A certain percentage of the time, suicide is rehearsed, aborted, or attempted prior to a completed suicide.
“Careful what you assume about others and the way of life.”
The problem with this advice is that it is a mistake to assume. Robin Williams is a huge celebrity, so as a mass public, assuming a high quality of life or a high level of enjoyment due to success may be all that is possible. However, being close to someone or having access to someone allows you the opportunity to not assume. I tell my crisis counselors and other professionals when I teach suicide prevention, “You never get the answer to a question you do not ask.” And the question when you notice big differences in personality, presentation, or practice (routine), accompanied by clusters of risk factors, is, “Do you want to commit suicide?”
All of us want to prevent suicide, but asking someone if they want to commit suicide is the last thing most of us are comfortable doing. Educate yourself, build your resolve, and when concern arises that someone you know may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, err on the side of saving a life. If you are wrong, that is good news. No one ever committed suicide just because someone asked them about suicidal thoughts. If you are right to be concerned, and you receive a disclosure (admission of suicidal thoughts or plans), or an inconclusive answer, you will have put yourself in the right position to prevent a suicide.
One word of advice I agree with completely:
“Take care of yourself.” Seek out someone you trust, don’t be alone, and call for help.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline for help.
Download the A Friend Asks app if you want to know more about how you can prevent suicide. It is free and I the only benefit I get is from knowing you are better prepared to help someone out who is thinking about suicide.