13 Sep How to spot suicidal warning signs
JUAN SAYS: We need to get basic education when it comes to psychiatric orders. Not because people do not fit the mold of what we think a person with depression looks like, does it mean that they are not suffering. However, while many of us are already aware about depression and suicide, lay people may be able to see the signs and identify the disorders when it is already too late. We do not blame it on the lack of education (heck, articles on depression and suicide can easily be found on the internet), but on the lack of apathy or care from someone’s immediate surroundings. What we have observed is that, the closer one is to the person, the less likely they would know that someone has depression. While Filipinos, as we have observed, are a very emotional race, we tend to overlook the symptoms of the disorder and somewhat dismiss it as “drama” or being too emotional. This reaction by the vast majority of people (coupled with those who ridicule suicide) masks early detection. We simply brush it off and think, “ah, it’s just that she wants attention.”
The article at rappler.com “How to spot suicidal tendencies in your loved ones” states that “It’s a common misconception, doctors say, that those who talk about killing themselves are never really serious, and are simply trying to get attention.” But we would like to believe that there is a vast difference with “trying to get attention” and “being in a dark place of hopelessness.” They don’t go out of their way filming themselves while crying, do they? Maybe you think they are just seeking attention. And maybe you are right. And maybe that attention you give could’ve saved her life.
Yet many of us are too stoic, too indifferent, and too self-righteous to give even 5 minutes of our time to people who are already losing it. And we are hoping, that with your nonchalant response to people who are trying to grab your hand to help them pull themselves out of their deep shit, would suit well in your conscience when finally, they successfully take their lives.
You are simply being like Cain who responded to God, “am I my brother’s keeper?” This one, is on you!
Signs you should watch out for when considering a mental disorder that may lead to suicide:
(Source: Philippines Suicide First Aid Guidelines, with research supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Center for International Mental Health)
- Withdrawing from friends and family. Kung ganun na sila dati pa, look if it has worsened.
- Expressing hopelessness, shame, worthlessness, having no reason to live.
- Describing themselves as a burden to others.
- Verbally expressing their wish to die through jokes, threats, or praying that God would take their life.
- Seeking information about suicide methods.
- Behaving in life-threatening ways, like engaging in risky activities seemingly without thinking.
- Stop life saving treatments or medications.
- Setting their affairs in order by giving away prized possessions, seeking forgiveness, or making amends, asking others to take on responsibility for the car of people or pets.
- Increased intake of tobacco, alcohol, or other vices.
What to do and not do?
- If they exhibit any of the signs above, ask directly: Are you thinking of killing yourself?
- DON’T express fear or judgment when talking about suicide, as they are vulnerable needing emotional support and a safe space to talk about their feelings.
- You may probe further, if you can be tactful about it: a. Have you decided on how you would kill yourself? b. Have you decided on when you would do it?, c. Have you taken any steps to secure the things you would need to carry out your plan?
- All thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously, especially if there is a high level of planning involved.
- Keep the person safe by: a. Checking up on them and must not be left alone, especially if still without psychiatrist consult or medication; b. Don’t mock or belittle what they feel. Don’t judge; c. Try to remove means of suicide if possible; d. Seek professional help as soon as there is a great degree of suspicion.
- Avoid asking if they have a mental illness, because of the stigma attached to it. Learn how to encourage them to seek diagnosis and consult, before concluding anything.
Where to seek help: Natasha Goulbourn Foundation: 804-4673; 09175584673; globe and TM toll free 2919; other institutions would be the National Center for Mental Health, and indigent patients may course their concerns with their local Social Welfare Office for proper referral to a government psychiatrist.