Each year in the United States, more than 44,000 people take their own lives. That’s an average of 121 suicides per day. It’s estimated that for every one reported, 12 more people engage in self-harm, whether intentional suicide attempts or not.

With rates on a steady incline, it’s past time for action. Each and every one of us needs to have a part in supporting those who struggle with suicidal thoughts. In order to be of any help, though, we need to be able to recognize the signs of a person on the brink. What should you look for and how can you help?

Don’t Ignore These Warning Signs

The American Association of Suicidology developed a mnemonic for the warning signs. It goes as follows: IS PATH WARM?

Ideation – Suicidal thoughts and planning (without the final act of self-murder)

Substance abuse – Drugs, alcohol, tobacco and so on

Purposelessness – “There’s no point in going on.”

Anxiety – Constant or overwhelming worry or fear that interferes with the ability to function normally

Trapped – “There’s no (other) way out of this.”

Hopelessness – “Things will never get better | I will never get better.”

Withdrawal – Choosing to avoid close friends, family or favorite activities

Anger – Prolonged anger or explosive outbursts of rage

Recklessness – Acting carelessly or taking dangerous risks without thinking

Mood changes – Constant sadness or unexpected and dramatic mood swings

Spring Into Action!

If you notice any of the above signs, what should you do? You should immediately contact a healthcare professional. Some individuals go through with suicide, while others do not. Yet, no one should ever take the chance and assume that a person won’t follow through. It’s better to be on the safe side and seek help for them even if they don’t necessarily want it. What else can you do, though?

Many who’ve contemplated suicide but stopped short of an attempt attribute it to thinking of those around them. They contemplated on the pain and suffering that it would cause to family and friends who loved them and they chose to keep fighting. When they’re on the brink, you want the person to have no doubt that you love them, support them and will be devastated if anything happens to them.

The only way they can be convinced of this is if you show them genuine love, support and concern beforehand. You can listen patiently and without being critical if the person is willing to talk. If possible and when appropriate, you may also share your own experiences with getting control over dark feeling and thoughts. It helps to know they are not alone.

But what about those who we don’t have sustained contact with, perhaps a sad-looking stranger? A warm, genuine smile, a friendly hello or an encouraging comment can work wonders. We never know what’s going through the minds of others. That’s why we should always strive to be kind to those we know well and those we don’t. We could very well be saving a life.

Be an Advocate For Prevention

National Suicide Prevention Week is fast approaching. It will run from Sunday to Saturday, surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. What can you do to raise awareness, erase the stigma and encourage prevention?

  • Make a donation to an organization working for this important cause
  • Host a prevention and awareness event
  • Receive training on how to handle suicidal individuals

Not only can you make an impact, you can help others to do the same. The more people who step up to help those who are suffering, the better. How do you plan to step up and help during Suicide Prevention week and thereafter?