April 10, 2023
Writer: Nikki Lizarondo
Researcher: Nikki Lizarondo
Peer Review: Jasmin Cyrille Tecson
Graphics: Jia Moral, Krystle Labio
In a recently published article from Inquirer entitled, “Mental health crisis: 404 student suicides in 2021-22,” it was reported that 404 young students in various parts of the country died by suicide, and 2,147 others attempted to end their lives during the height of the pandemic. The numbers are heartbreaking, and the ugly truth is that it continues to grow, affecting everyone, no matter their status in life.
We all know someone who died by suicide, whether through the news or someone we knew and was close to us, or maybe you have experienced having suicidal thoughts yourself. The question is, what can we do about it? Awareness and education play a huge role in this, so let’s #CheckTheSigns and start saving a life.
How Can I Tell if Someone is Feeling Suicidal?
There are several risk factors and warning signs that can help us identify if someone is feeling suicidal. Risk factors are characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt or die by suicide. Risk Factors include:
- Previous suicide attempt(s).
- A history of suicide in the family.
- Substance use.
- Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder).
- Access to lethal means (for example, keeping firearms in the home or having access to unsecured prescription medications)
- Losses and other events (for example, the breakup of a relationship or a death, academic failures, legal difficulties, financial difficulties).
- History of trauma or abuse.
- Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain.
- Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others.
- Social isolation.
- Historical trauma.
- The stigma associated with seeking help.
On the other hand, warning signs indicate an immediate risk of suicide, such as:
- Often talking or writing about death, dying, or suicide.
- Jokes about death or suicide
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless.
- Expressions of having no reason for living, no sense of purpose in life, saying things like “It would be better if I weren’t here” or “I want out.”
- Increased alcohol and/or drug use.
- Withdrawal from friends, family and community.
- Reckless behavior or more risky activities, seemingly without thinking.
- Dramatic mood changes.
- Giving away valued possessions
- Contacting people to say goodbye or ask for their forgiveness
- Talking about feeling trapped or being a burden to others.
It is crucial that we pay close attention to be able to recognize these signs. Oftentimes, we miss out on the signs as some people carry themselves well. They look, act, and seem okay but feel the opposite deep down.
When checking in on someone who you think is suicidal, ask twice, listen carefully to what they say, and look closely at their actions. It’s easy to miss out on the signs, so be intentional about it.
What Can I Do to Help Someone Who is Suicidal?
There are five steps you can take to support a loved one that may be experiencing suicidal thoughts:
1. Ask if they’re thinking about suicide. Do not avoid using the word suicide as it is important to discuss it directly. Studies show that asking someone if they are having thoughts of suicide does not increase the likelihood of suicide, nor does it increase suicidal thoughts.
2. Keep Them Safe, and reduce access to harmful objects.
3. Be There. Listen carefully and without judgment to them and acknowledge how they feel. Make them feel safe in your presence.
4. Help Them Connect. Call or text their loved ones, doctor, therapist, or the NCMH crisis hotline.
5. Stay Connected. Check-in on them continuously. Suicidal crises can last for a few hours or days. Do things that the person who is suicidal enjoys doing to help refocus their energy into something fun, fulfilling, and safe for them.
What Can I Do if I Feel Suicidal?
Sometimes, inflicting pain on ourselves seems like the only way to make us “feel” that we’re still here— when it all gets too much. But no matter how challenging every situation can become, may we never try (again) to bring about the same pain we feel inside our bodies.
Try one of these exercises to help you to cope healthily and finally free yourself from inflicting physical harm on the beauty that is your body:
What are Other Important Things About Suicide that We Should Know?
We must help the person understand that they have control over their thoughts and they do not need to be acted on. Other things to remember are:
1. All talks about suicide must be taken seriously. Do not think that this is just someone’s way of gaining attention. On the plus side, sometimes, giving our attention is what will save a life.
2. Not all people who take their own lives have mental disorders. Suicidal behavior indicates deep unhappiness and can happen to anyone.
3. Providing a safe space or being someone’s safe person can help prevent suicide. The feelings of connectedness and belongingness are very powerful.
4. Verbal and non-verbal signs have preceded the majority of suicides, it doesn’t often happen suddenly.
5. The sad reality is that sometimes, despite our efforts, some people still die by suicide. But this should not stop us from doing our best to help those in need and ourselves as well.
Being knowledgable about suicide prevention is one step closer to creating a safe space for those who are struggling. Feeling seen, heard, loved, and understood can do wonders for someone, and in some cases may even save a life. Depression is an endless cycle of hopelessness and despair, and it always feels like there's no way out of it. It's scary to be in such a situation, but if we use our inner light to guide those who are living in the dark, then it's a testament that in the end, hope and love always prevail. And most of the time, they come in a form of a person. Be that person.
Where Can We Find Help?
You may refer to the #MentalHealthPH directory for a validated list of mental health facilities, services, and organizations from around the Philippines. For emergency help, you may call the NCMH crisis hotline.
This April 10, at 7pm to 8pm, let’s talk about suicide prevention! Join us as we also celebrate #UsapTayo's 6th Anniversary by answering the following questions:
1. How can we further spread awareness on the warning signs of suicide?
2. What can you do to help someone who is suicidal?
3. What is the most important thing you learned about suicide prevention?