“Suicide sometimes proceeds from cowardice, but not always; for cowardice sometimes prevents it; since as many live because they are afraid to die, as die because they are afraid to live.”
Charles Caleb Colton

Few people are aware that suicide remains one of the leading causes of death for people worldwide. It truly is a global problem. However, it is a sad fact if you consider the number of preventive measures available to handle these tragic situations. Unfortunately, it’s also the essence of suicide that makes it difficult for you to actually protect your loved ones.

In rare instances, there may be no sign or symptom at all before an individual commits suicide. However, making a constant effort to spend time with the people you care about can make you more attune to warning signs that would have been easily overlooked by others.

A person has a high risk of committing suicide if he or she exhibits any of the following signs or symptoms:

• Talking, thinking, or writing about suicidal thoughts – even if it’s just occasionally.
• Making a conscious effort to acquire a means to commit suicide, for example stockpiling pills or buying a gun.
• Displaying behaviors that indicate social withdrawal, such as spending too much time alone or avoiding contact with other people.
• Having extreme or even occasional mood swings for inexplicable reasons.
• Spending too much time thinking or talking about issues related to violence or death.
• Admitting that they feel hopeless or trapped by a particular situation in their personal lives, at school or at work.
• Increased consumption of drugs, alcohol, nicotine or any other form of substance abuse.
• Sudden and inexplicable changes in their regular routine, such as their sleeping patterns and eating habits.
• Taking sudden and too many unnecessary risks with their lives, such as reckless driving, gambling, drug taking or having unprotected sex.
• Writing their last testament, making arrangements for how their possessions should be disposed of if they were gone or giving away belongings for seemingly no valid reason.
• Saying good-bye as if they are leaving or going away for good.
• Exhibiting major personality changes as well as showing a serious inability to cope with stress and anxiety or life in general.

It’s always better to play it safe when it comes to individuals who may be at risk of committing suicide. If you have any reason to expect that a loved one is entertaining thoughts of harming himself or herself, then you should contact the proper authorities about it. Be sure to share your worries with other people so that they, too, may watch over your loved one.

If you are personally in danger of committing suicide, then there are proactive measures you can take to prevent it. The coping strategies below cover it in more detail, but here are a few of the main points to consider.

• Speak to a loved one or close friend about what you are going through. Take the courage to be completely honest about your situation.
• Contact suicide prevention hot lines. Crisis help lines are free and 24/7.
• Talk to a spiritual adviser if you feel that this might help your situation.
• Seek professional help.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause for suicide. However, one surprising fact is the possibility of genetics having to do with suicide. Some studies show that there may be a genetic component relevant to suicide. If there is a history of suicide in your family, then it may place you at greater risk of committing suicide as well. This is not meant to alarm anybody who might find themselves in this particular situation. Rather, it is meant to empower people to be aware of any possible risks. Being aware of any possible risks can be very empowering. In other words, once you know that there could be a potential risk, you are better able to equip yourself with the necessary coping skills and strategies mentioned below.

Here is a list of situations that commonly act as a trigger for suicidal thoughts or actual attempts at suicide.

• Are you feeling lonely, socially isolated or hopeless about your life?
• Has something particularly stressful recently happened in your life and it’s something that you feel you cannot cope with? Examples of this include, but are not limited to, losing a loved one, engaging in your first battle as a military officer, breaking up with your partner, being diagnosed with a serious medical condition, finding out that you are bankrupt, or becoming a target of a lawsuit.
• Substance abuse is not always a symptom of suicide. Sometimes, it can be one of its triggers because its side effects can make you more open to entertaining suicidal thoughts.
• Do you have access to any means for attempting suicide?
• Is it possible that you are suffering from any kind of psychiatric disorder? This includes, but is not limited to, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, paranoia, phobia, or psychosis.
• Is there a history of mental disorder of any kind in your family? What about a history of suicide, physical abuse, or substance abuse?
• Are you suffering from any kind of disease in which depression is one of its possible symptoms?
• Are you suffering from any kind of discrimination?
• Is there something important in your life that you do not receive critical support from your loved ones? An example of this is if your family does not approve of your lifestyle, work, or your decision to come out as a homosexual.

Special factors have to be considered if you are concerned about children or teens committing suicide.

• Is your child likely to be suffering from any kind of mental or psychiatric disorder, diagnosed or not?
• Is your child troubled by a problematic relationship with a family member or close friend?
• Is there history of any kind of abuse in your family?
• Is your child exposed to substance abuse of any kind?
• Is your child pregnant?
• Is there a possibility that your child is suffering from an STD or a sexually transmitted infection of any kind?
• Is your child suffering from bullying or discrimination?
• Does your child appear to be having problems with his or her sexual orientation?

Sometimes, what you should watch out for is a tendency or a possibility that a loved one would commit murder. If that is likely, then suicide may also follow. Unfortunately, this kind of tragedy happens all too often. The amount of suffering it causes is immeasurable. But it can be avoided if people are taught how to learn to cope with rejection and failure. If a person has developed no coping skills and life deals them a bad blow, things can sometimes take a turn for the worst. When people can’t cope and if they are left to their own devices, tragedy usually follows. Everybody needs help at some point in their lives. Some of the major issues that could lead to suicide are as follows:

• Relationship problems, such as extra-marital affairs, sexual abuse, and issues over control and jealousy.
• Financial problems, such as bankruptcy, unexpected increases in rent, or finding out that you’ve lost a huge amount of money in your investment.
• Legal problems, such as learning that you may have inadvertently committed a crime or you’re being sued by someone else.

It’s a sad fact that there are also certain types of prescribed medications that count depression as a potential side effect. If you or a loved one has no option but to take this type of medication, then you should be extra observant about any unusual actions, behavior or thoughts.
Make sure you inform a friend or family member if you are taking medication that could alter your personality. Someone on the outside looking in, so to speak, could recognize the signs that something isn’t right before you do.

Below are a number of key strategies that you can use to help yourself, a friend or a family member. It only barely touches the subject, so I would encourage people to research the topic further through the Internet, books and self-help groups. Remember, knowledge is power!

• Don’t do anything right now. You may be in a lot of pain, but try to distance yourself from your thoughts and your actions. Being depressed and thinking about suicide is completely different from actually doing it. It’s the depression and stress that’s making you think in a way that you normally wouldn’t. Give yourself a chance. Tell yourself you’ll give it another day or even a week just to give yourself a chance to think rather than act.

• If you are taking drugs and/or alcohol, suicidal thoughts can become even stronger. These substances will alter your natural way of thinking. I have no doubt that many a person took their own life while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drugs and alcohol only compound the problems people have to face. The world is a completely different place when you’re sober. Reality can be tough sometimes, but it’s the only reality we have. And we can live in this reality if we give ourselves a chance. There are ways of coping with and overcoming our problems.

• Identify situations that trigger feelings of despair or that generates suicidal thoughts. It could be the upcoming anniversary of the loss of a loved one, consumption of excessive alcohol or drugs, and the stress of a break up from a relationship or struggling with one’s sexual identity. There are, of course, many other reasons, but the most important thing is to become aware of what triggers you. Just being honest with yourself can lift a great weight off your shoulders and help you to avoid these triggers in the future.

• The nature of depression or feeling suicidal means that a person wants to isolate themselves from society and everybody around them. Because of this fact, it can make things seem difficult to make a recovery, but this is not true. Even if you don’t want or feel like talking to people you know, there are crisis help lines that people can use to talk about their feelings. Remember, we are social creatures, and it’s never a good idea trying to go it alone.

• Try to build a support network for yourself. Have phone numbers ready at hand in case you ever need them. Always have somebody just a phone call away. It could be your family doctor, a friend, a family member or a crisis line. When all else fails, a crisis line could be your salvation. Remember, you’re never truly alone because crisis lines are there 24/7. The people who volunteer their services wouldn’t be on the other end of the line unless they cared. People do care about other people, so you are not alone.

• Take care of yourself. What you eat and drink and how much fresh air and exercise you get is very important. I can tell you that fresh air and just going for a short walk (which is free by the way) goes a long way. Even just basic deep breathing exercises can put you in a different mindset. • It’s important to remember that nothing ever stays the same. I understand that this might seem difficult to accept when you are feeling depressed or suicidal, but it is true. When life deals us severe blows, it takes time to recover. After all, we’re only human. We have to give ourselves a chance. One small step at a time is the key to achieving anything big. Taking on too much too soon is never a good idea. When a young child starts to learn to walk for the first time, it falls over many times. But no matter how many times the child falls over, it keeps getting up until it learns to stand on its own two feet. Life does the same thing when we get older, but remember, it never stays the same as long as we pick ourselves up and carry on. No matter how many times it takes!

Copyright Piaras O Cionnaoith 2013.