How to recognize if someone you love may be contemplating suicide

Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization.

Navigating a pandemic and national unrest may contribute to this troubling statistic, as fear and anxiety may overcome us as we’re trying to understand what’s happening around us. 

As National Suicide Prevention Week (Sept. 6 – 12) approaches, HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals remind everyone that if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you should call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), text HELLO to 741741, which is the Crisis Text Line or dial 911. All of these resources are free, confidential and available 24/7. 

The hospitals recommend programming the Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number and Text Line into your cell phone so it’s easy to find should you need it.

Alyssa Van Duyse, an HSHS colleague and suicide prevention instructor certified by the national QPR Institute, says it’s important to not only take note of your own feelings during this uncertain time, but also of those around you. 

“The word ‘suicide’ is still thought of as taboo – especially in the Midwest because we’re not so great at talking about our feelings,” says Alyssa. “That’s why it’s important to recognize the clues a person may be contemplating suicide.”

Four ways someone may tell you they are contemplating suicide:
  1. They give a direct verbal clue by saying something like “I’m going to end it all,” or “I wish I were dead.”
  2. They give a coded verbal clue by saying something like “I’m tired of life. I just want out,” or “I can’t take it anymore.” 
  3. They exhibit behavioral clues like increased risk-taking, self-injurious behavior or drug or alcohol use.
  4. They shoulder situational clues like being fired from a job, being diagnosed with a serious illness or being bullied or humiliated. 
During QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer) suicide prevention classes, Alyssa instructs participants to practice asking the question, “Are you thinking about suicide?” 

“If you practice it, it won’t be so hard to ask if you ever have to ask someone in a real-life situation,” she says. “Also, sometimes people who are considering suicide are relieved if you ask because it indicates that someone noticed their struggle.” 

For more information about how you can help someone struggling with mental health, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website or the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Media Contact

Karen Kraus

Communications Department
HSHS Wisconsin
Office: (715) 717-4591
Cell: (715) 717-4747
Karen.Kraus@hshs.org

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