The Signs of Suicide, Handled With Care
Five years ago Travis Pipes’ life was spiraling out of control. He was struggling with drug addiction, anxiety and depression. Pipes had almost given up on his life, but he stopped himself. He recognized that there was something seriously wrong.
Before taking any drastic measures, Pipes called Kevin Hines who was a survivor of attempted suicide. It was Hines who had inspired Pipes to change his life. And now five years later today, Pipes is a published sports writer and Milwaukee AM radio NFL draft analyst.
He did not wake up one day and decide it was time to end his life. It was a five-year struggle that kept building up.
“Suicide was not a passing thought,” Pipes said. “I’m looking at this from a decision point of view … I thought it’s ok to not be ok.”
Signs of Suicide
You have to be careful because every sad person you come across is not going to be suicidal.
Barbara Moser, chair of Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee, said “getting to the point where someone is suicidal is very complex.”
“We all get sad sometimes, that doesn’t mean we want to commit suicide,” Moser said.
Dr Lee Za Ong, associate professor of counseling at Mount Mary University, said that a suicidal person isn’t always easy to spot.
“You have to be careful, sometimes suicide is well-planned and sometimes there is no sign at all,” Ong said.
Ong said that there are several signs people should look for when they encounter someone who might be considering suicide.
“Isolation, feeling sad, talking about negative things, Ong Said, these are the signs to look for, but you have to be careful, sometimes suicide is well planned and there is no sign at all”.
Pipes noticed the signs early on, but instead of expressing what he felt, hiding the emotions and pain from people became second nature. As the struggles with mental illness became too much to bear, he fell into isolation.
He said he isolated himself so it was hard for people to recognize his depression.
“ I learned to project well at a young age and because I didn’t have a relationship with people no one would know,” Pipes said.
Ong said paying attention to the emotional changes of people is important. Pay attention if they go from being extremely sad to super happy.
“When you see this person sad all the time, but suddenly they become happy, you want to be careful as well,” Ong said. “This could also be a sign of a suicidal person.”
Some people who are considering suicide might directly announce their feelings. It might be in a small conversation he or she is having. It pays to listen to these individuals.
“The most common sign is when they verbally express they want to harm themselves or say they want to die and don’t want to live anymore,” Ong said.
Paying attention to the things they are saying is important. If a person who is considering suicide feels that no one cares, it is a danger zone. Their mindset is completely different from someone who is just annoyed with you.
Moser said the mindset of a suicidal person is that they don’t feel connected to anyone. They don’t want to harm themselves, but they have lost hope and feel there is nothing else left to do.
“The mindset of a suicidal person is that they feel like a burden and they don’t feel connected, and many who have attempted feel they don’t want to die,” Moser said.
How to Help
When a bystander or a friend of the individual recognizes these signals, they need to seek help for the individual immediately. There are various ways a bystander can make a difference in the life of a suicidal person.
Ong said that listening is extremely important. Individuals need to feel that they are being heard.
“When people tell you they are sad or don’t want to live, you want to listen to them,” said Ong, one thing you don’t want to say is, ‘Oh, you’ll be fine.; Avoid that and just be there.”
Listening to those who come to you with a problem is important. The want to talk to people who they are comfortable with.
“They want to talk to people who they can connect with and relate to,”said Moser, “They just want someone to be there for them who understands their struggles. What makes the most difference is learning from people we can relate to”.
Like Moser, Ong emphasized the importance of connecting to others.
“Listen to the person and stay with them,” Ong said. “When people are sad they just want a place to talk about that sadness. You want to let them know it’s okay to feel sad. You want to make them feel comfortable.”
As much as listening is important, sometimes individuals don’t want to talk about it. Suicide is still a taboo topic, but it’s possible to change that through dialogue.
Moser said asking the individual about suicide is great start to prevent it. She said the way you ask the question is also important.
“The best way to ask is just to ask,” Moser said.
Moser said if you are afraid to ask those questions, find someone else who is able to do it.
It’s not always easy to help a friend with something you may not understand, but by listening and reaching out you can make a big difference.
Ong said if you can’t be of assistance to your friend, lead them to a professional who can.
“Refer them to suicide prevention services and professional help,” Ong said.
Ong said make sure the individual has someone by their side when seeking assistance.
“Don’t let them go alone, go with them because sometimes this can be a scary experience for them,” Ong said.
If you think you might have suicide ideations, it’s important to recognize that something is wrong and seek help for yourself.
“Issues of treatment comes down to the person,” Pipes said.
Honesty with himself was important to Pipes. He asked himself questions and that was necessary in order to make changes in his life.
“What changed for me was recognizing that I had issues and I wanted to get help, “ Pipes said.
There are people and resources available that will help you, but you must want the help.
“The most important relationship you will have is with yourself and relationships with other individuals matter,” Pipes said.