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More information on dealing with suicide

What you can do if you see signs of suicide:

Don't be afraid to ask if the person has thought about suicide or homicide-suicide. You will not give them ideas.

Don't act shocked or surprised. Talk to them. Ask how you can help.

Offer hope and alternatives. Show interest and support.

Ask about guns in the house. If possible, remove guns and other methods for killing.

Ask directly what plans they have to die. The more detailed the plan, the greater the risk.

Do not be sworn to secrecy. Get help; seek crisis intervention from professionals or geriatric specialist.

Do not try to help by yourself.

_ Source: Homicide-Suicide in Older Person: How You Can Help Prevent a Tragedy. Dr. Donna Cohen.

Beyond surviving: Suggestion for survivors

Know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can.

Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but all your feelings are normal.

Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy, your are in mourning.

Don't be afraid to cry. Tears are healing.

Give yourself time to heal.

Remember, the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another's life.

Expect setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, you may only be experiencing a remnant of grief, an unfinished piece.

Give yourself permission to get professional help.

Be patient with yourself and others who may not understand.

It is common to experience physical reactions to your grief, e.g., headaches, loss of appetite, inability to sleep.

Wear out your questions, anger, guilt, or other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go doesn't mean forgetting.

Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and even go beyond just surviving.

_ Iris M. Bolton; American Association of Suicidology.

What you can do to

fight suicidal thoughts

Keep a journal to write down your thoughts. Each day, write about your hopes for the future and the people you value in your life. Read what you've written when you need to remind yourself why your own life is important.

Go out with friends and family. When we're depressed, it becomes more difficult, but it is still important. Visiting or allowing visits by family and friends who are caring and can understand may help you feel better.

Avoid drugs and alcohol. Most deaths by suicide result from sudden, uncontrolled impulses. Since drugs and alcohol contribute to such impulses, it is essential to avoid them. Drugs and alcohol also interfere with the effectiveness of medications prescribed for depression.

Talk about suicide. Talking will not plant the idea in someone's head. Not everyone who thinks of suicide attempts it. For many, it's a passing thought that lessens over time. For a significant number of people, however, the hopelessness and exaggerated anxiety brought on by untreated or under-treated depression may create suicidal thoughts that they cannot easily manage on their own. For this reason, take any mention of suicide seriously.

_ Source: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

What you can do to help

Express empathy and concern: Severe depression is usually accompanied by a self-absorbed, uncommunicative, withdrawn state of mind. When you try to help, you may be met by an individual's reluctance to discuss what he or she is feeling. At such times, it is important to acknowledge the reality of the pain and hopelessness he or she is experiencing. Resist the urge to function as a therapist, which can ultimately create more feelings of rejection for the person, who doesn't want to be told what to do.

Work with professionals: Never promise confidentiality if you believe someone is very close to suicide. Keep the person's doctor or therapist informed of any thoughts of suicide. If possible it is best to encourage the person to discuss it with doctors themselves, but you should be ready to confirm that those discussions have taken place. This may involve making an appointment to visit the doctor together or calling the doctor on your own. Be aware that a doctor will not be able to discuss the person's condition with you. You should only call to inform the doctor of your concern.

Whenever possible you should get permission from the depressed person to call their doctor if you feel there is a problem. Otherwise it could be seen as butting in and may worsen their symptoms or cause added stress.

Stress that the person's life is important to you and others: Many people find it awkward to put into words how another person's life is important for their own well-being. Emphasize in specific terms the ways in which the person's suicide would be devastating to you and others.

Be prepared for anger: The person may express anger and feel betrayal by your attempt to prevent their suicide or get them into treatment. Be strong. Realize that these reactions are caused by the illness and should pass once the person has received the proper treatment.

Always be supportive: A person who has thought about or attempted suicide will most likely have feelings of guilt and shame. Be supportive and assure the person that their actions were caused by an illness that can be treated. Offer your continued support to help them recover.

Take care of yourself: It is not uncommon for friends and family members to experience stress or symptoms of depression when dealing with a suicidal person. You can only help the person through their own treatment with encouragement and support. You cannot get better for them. Do not focus all of your energy on the one person, ask friends and family to join you in providing support and keep to your normal routine as much as possible. Pay attention to your own feelings and seek help if you need it.

_ Source: Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance.

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