Suicide: Spotting the signs

TW: Suicide/Loss of life

Suicide is a growing cause of death in the modern world. Anyone who has read Johann Hari’s ‘Lost Connections’ will understand the impact modern living can have on mental health. The isolation experienced (and still being experienced) due to COVID 19 lockdowns has had an exponential impact on global mental health.

As humans, we are not built to live in isolation. Our brains are not designed to sit in front of a screen, day in, day out- alone. We’re a tribal group, we need connection and community to sustain us. Over the last two years, the majority of people across the world have been separated from friends and family, denied these vital connections. And people are struggling.

Lifeline gets a call every 30 seconds. More people die by suicide each year than in road accidents. Suicide was the fourth leading cause of death in 15–29 year-olds world-wide in 2019. 78% of all deaths from suicide are men. This is more than a concern, it’s an epidemic.

It can be hard to tell if someone close to us is contemplating suicide. Many of us wear masks so effectively that it can be impossible to know what’s going on underneath. Some changes in a persons’ behaviour could include:

● Social withdrawal

● Rapid weight changes

● Insomnia

● Giving away of possessions

Some verbal indications could include:

● Believing they are a burden to others

● Saying they feel worthless

● Expressing a wish to die

Vulnerable high-risk groups can be:

● People experiencing abuse/violence

● People who are isolated

● People who are in crisis/conflict

● Refugees/migrants

● People in the LGBTI community

By far the greatest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.

These lists are not exhaustive, nor are they binary. Just because someone is showing some of these symptoms does not necessarily mean they are suicidal.

While the link between suicide and mental health issues are well documented, many suicides happen impulsively in moments of crisis. If you know someone who is going through financial problems, a relationship breakdown or chronic illness- encouraging them to speak about this can really help. Often in these moments of crisis, if people feel there is no one who can help or who will understand, it can be a catalyst. Being aware there is always a ‘way out’ can be a massive encouragement in a time of need.

It can be challenging to speak to someone who you suspect might be suicidal. Often people will deny how they feel and tell you they are ‘fine’. If you’re going to have a conversation with them it’s best to do so in a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted such as their house or on a drive.