What makes a person want to commit suicide
This is not an easy question to answer. The answers vary from person to person. But usually the reply involves trying to block out unbearable emotional pain and hurt. Many times it is a cry for help.
When you get to the point of contemplating suicide, you are often so distressed that you are unable to see any other options, any other way out.
Everyone has problems, and can usually find ways of dealing with isolated stressful or traumatic events and experiences reasonably well. But sometimes there is a build up of these kinds of events over a period of time. When this happens all the coping strategies that they have put into place are pushed to their limits.
These limits vary from person to person. Rape and abuse survivors are very vunerable. They have to deal with all kinds of memories, flashbacks PTSD, depression, relationship problems, trust issues to name but a few, on top of everyday problems that may crop up. It sometimes gets to the stage where it is all too much to deal with.
A person who is contemplating suicide is usually so distressed that they can’t see that there are other options available to them. Their distress is overwhelming and they can feel totally isolated and alone with their feelings.
Usually by the time a person gets to the stage of thinking about suicide as an option they are not able to evaluate their options in an objective manner. If they weren’t in such great distress many would choose a different option. A lot of suicidal people give out warning signs in the hope that they will be rescued. Most just want an end to the never ending emotional pain and hurt, not to die.
Often warning signs are present. This may not just be one particular sign, there are often several clues that are apparant. Just becuase one or more of these clues may be noticeable doesn’t necesarily mean that someone is definately conteplating suicide. The only way to make sure is to ask them.
If a person is determined to go ahead with suicide, they may go out of their way to not give out warning signals or clues. They may really not want to be rescued at all.
Here are some warning signs or signals that a suicidal person may give.
- Depression: not clinical depression even, but showing signs of:
- Recurring suicidal thoughts dreams or fantasies
- Showing signs of sadness and hopelessness
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Loss of energy
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Changes in behaviour
- Change in sleep patterns
- Negative comments about themselves
- They may have made previous suicide attempts.
- They may talk, write or hint about suicide.
- Purposefully putting personal affairs in order:
- Clearing the air from past personal incidents
- Giving away personal possesions
- Checking and putting in order wills or insurance policies
These signs as i said are only meant as a guideline. Some people may not show any outward signs, even though they are feeling suicidal. Some may show many of the signs but are coping ok. The only real way of knowing for sure is to ask.
If someone is feeling so desperate, and has formed a plan to commit suicide they could do so at the first available opportunity.
Suicide is a bit of a taboo subject unfortunately, just like rape is. Often even after their deaths suicide victims have been treated differently to others by not being burried near other people in a graveyard. It’s like by taking their own lives, no matter how desperate they may have been feeling it was some unforgivable sin.
Just like rape if it was accepted as something that did happen, and people could talk about it freely and easily to others it would reduce the distress that people were feeling. They wouldn’t have to try and hide their feelings, and so hopefully they could see the other options clearly and thus reduce suicide attempts.
How you can help
Sometimes when a person is feeling suicidal they will reach out and tell someone. It is usually someone they feel could help them, or listen to them. It may be that they have already started their suicide attempt, or it may be before they try. They may be crying and sobbing or they may be subdued and quiet, no two people react the same way. If you suspect someone is thinking of suicide or is showing signs that they may be don’t hesitate, ask them outright.
Asking a person who is suicidal if they are having suicidal thoughts and feelings gives them permission to feel that way, thus reducing their isolation and desperation. It shows that somone else is aware and understands just how desperate they are feeling. A person who is feeling isolated is more likely to go ahead with a suicide atempt.
Asking someone if they are suicidal can be difficult. I have a few suggestions to make it easier:
- Are you feeling so bad that you’re considering suicide?
- That sounds like an awful lot for one person to take; has it made you think about killing yourself to escape?
- Has all that pain you’re going through made you think about hurting yourself?
- Have you ever felt like just throwing it all away?
Listen carefully to their response. Sometimes they may initially say i don’t know or no when they really mean yes. Usually if they say no and mean no they will talk about a specific reason they have to live for. It may be helpful to ask them if they were ever in a position of feeling suicidal how would they plan to kill themselves. This could be useful information for future reference. It may in fact be that they do feel suicidal but they don’t feel comfortable telling you outright.
It may seem like a crazy idea, talking about suicide and ways of killing yourself to a person who you suspect may be indeed suicidal. But it can give you vital clues and information to help them survive. If someone is hell bent on commiting suicide they will most probably do it anyway. It must always remain the person’s own responsibility to choose what they wish to do. However, by talking to someone and helping people to deal with their problems better, to see their options more clearly, to make better choices for themselves and avoid choices that they would normally regret empowers people with their rights; it does not take their rights away.
When someone tells you they are having suicidal thoughts and feelings it is imperative that you listen. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. They need to know how you feel about it. Tell them outright that you don’t want them to die. Try to make yourself available for them. Take them seriously. Try to extract a promise from them that when they feel suicidal they will contact you or someone that can help, like a counsellor, or a doctor, before they do anything.If they refuse to talk and appear determined, they may need to go directly to hospital.
Talking may seem like it is not doing much to help, but by asking them about their thoughts and getting them to talk about how they are feeling reduces their feelings of isolation and distress and so reduces the immediate risk of suicide.
Getting them to talk is a short term strategy. It is important that proffesionals who know how to help resolve the problems are notified. People who have attempted suicide previously are more likely to attempt suicide again. Counselling can’t cure problems, but it is a way of finding ways to cope and maybe finding ways of resolving some of the issues that may be contributing to a persons suicidal tendencies.
It is important that you don’t try and deal with the situation totally on your own. The best way of helping is to refer them to someone who is equipped to offer them the help they need, while you continue to support them.
If you don’t know where to turn there are 24 Hour anonymous telephone counselling or suicide services in your area that you can call. They will be listed in your local telephone directory.
How suicide affects friends and family members
Suicide has a devestating effect on the partners, families and friends who remain. It’s ironice that often the person who has commited suicide thought that no-one cared about them. Not only do those who remain have to deal with the grief and shock that is natural when someone dies, they have many other feelings and emotions to work through. Feelings of hurt, confusion, guilt, anger and remorse to name a few. There may be many unresolved issues to deal with. All of this and the stigma that surrounds suicide can make them feel isolated and unable to deal with their grief.
Often other people don’t know what to say to people who have lost someone through suicide, and may act differently to how they normally would.
It is important that those who have lost someone through suicide get help to help them work throught their grief. Many places have local support groups that they can attend, where others who have experienced loosing someone the same way can support and talk openly about their feelings.
Annonymous telephone support lines are invaluable to someone who is thinking about suicide, or even to those trying to cope with someone who is feeling suicidal. Talking to someone who can’t see you, who doesn’t know you and who is trained to listen compassionately and non judgementally, is a lot less threatening than trying to talk face to face with someone.
Local telephone support lines are advertised in the local phone book. They often can offer advice to those who are dealing with a suicidal person. Sometimes people who are suicidal don’t remember these services are there, and they are very useful in a crisis.