How Can We Use Our Influence to Prevent Suicide
One of the crucial elements of therapy is recognizing what is in your control and what is not (check out my previous post “Is suicide 100% preventable?). A wise man once encouraged me to differentiate between what I have control over, and what I have influence over. Just because I can’t control another person or situation, doesn’t mean I don’t have the ability to influence the outcome. While we might not be able to prevent suicide 100%, there are so many things we can do to influence the loved ones in our lives to stay alive.
4 Key Action Steps
- Educate ourselves.2.
- Know the warning signs.
- Act on what we see.
Insulating factors to suicide include giving people a place to belong and supporting them in their pain.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people 15-24
- 91 people commit suicide daily in the United States of America.
- Suicides increase in the spring.
- Firearms are the leading cause of suicide.
- Males are 4x as likely to commit suicide (mostly likely with firearms).
- Females are 3x more likely to attempt suicide (most likely with poison).
Knowing this is hard and sad, but knowledge is power. Let’s use this information to our advantage. Heightened awareness can be very motivating.
Who is at Risk for Suicide?
Anyone can be at risk for suicide, but here are some of the possible warning signs one might see:
- Giving away their belongings, settling debts.
- Talking about death frequently.
- Threatening suicide (never ignore this!).
- Hinting that it would be better if they weren’t around or they aren’t in the future.
- Friends or family having committed suicide.
- Visiting/calling people to say goodbye.
- Not caring about anything.
- A sudden switch from being very sad to calm or happy.
- Talking about feeling hopeless or trapped.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increase in substance use.
Not everyone who is suicidal will display these signs. Knowing the warning signs helps us keep people safer.
What Can We Do?
Here are some ideas on ways to influence a safer outcome:
- Ask directly if they are thinking of killing themselves.
- Actively listen (i.e “So what I hear you saying is….”).
- Get more info (i.e. “Have you felt like this before?” or “Have you talked with a counselor?”).
- Find out if they have a plan, time, place, access to a feasible plan.
- Do not passively reassure (i.e “Everything will be ok.”) .
- Do not agree to keep it a secret.
- Avoid arguing, judging their motivation, or leaving them alone.
- Get other supports involved.
If you are worried about someone feeling suicidal and you ask them about it, do not accept a vague response. When safety is a concern, error on the side of caution. I’ve had parents say “If I don’t know if you can keep yourself safe and you aren’t able to tell me, then it is my job to do what I need to do in order to keep you safe.” This may be a trip the ER or a call to the local crisis line. Sometimes we unintentionally reinforce the behavior when we don’t hold people accountable for their behavior. If someone can’t confirm they are safe then we need to help them be safe by getting more support.
When Should We Get Support?
If they answer vaguely or positively to suicidal feelings.
- Call the 24/7 Clark County Crisis Line @ 1-800-626-8137 or
- Contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline @ 1-800-273-8255 or
- Take them to the ER
When loved ones are suicidal, we need an outside objective professional to give us options. If the professional advises something you don’t agree with, voice it because you know the person better than they do. Their job is to help you keep your loved one safer. There are many levels of support available to people. Locally, we have hospitalization, in-home support 24/7, intensive out patient options in addition to counselors and psychiatrists. For someone who habitually is suicidal, dialectical behavior therapy can be most helpful. Never underestimate the power of God. Our hope is in Him. While He may use therapies, medications, and people, He is our eternal hope. Ask that He sends you the support you need, and don’t be afraid to get help from safe people.
For further reading on suicide prevention, check out these articles:
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