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Recognising the Signs of a Suicidal Person

Blatantly obvious, but not well enough seen.

September 17th 2017, exactly ten days after my birthday, I lay crumpled on the floor in so much agonising pain because I did not now how I would make it through the news that my friend had just hung himself. As someone who has endured the torment of depression, anxiety and bulimia, it was something I struggled for a long time to avoid myself too. Three months later, I found myself travelling in an ambulance, alone, at 1AM towards the hospital because I had swallowed almost 100 pills. There were many signs, such blatantly obvious signs that people should have picked up on, or maybe they did, but chose to ignore them. You see, nobody really wants to die, they want an end to their suffering and sometimes it seems to become the only way out that people can see. Its the better option to some, rather than merely existing day to day paralysed by your own mind.

Before I begin into explaining the signs to look out for, if you are suffering and contemplating an end to your life I am speaking directly to you.

You have to hold on. I have seen what comes after suicide, and your pain never leaves. You die, but everything that you suffered, all of that pain, you leave that behind for your family to deal with. There is another way out of this, and it means you must go through it. It may seem impossible, but you have absolutely no idea what you are capable of, and what sort of person you will become after everything you have fought through. Tell someone how you are feeling, someone who can really help you, and please, hold on.

1) Joking comments about suicide, or death- especially the harm of oneself.

So, so many sarcastic comments really hold a lot of truth in them to the way a person is thinking. Never dismiss jokes made about such situations, as often it is a cry for help disguised through laughter. Of course there is the one rare occasion where an insensitive individual with no understanding of suffering thinks that it is acceptable to make such jokes, but to me it should never be ignored. More often that not, that person is asking for help. Here are some examples of this kind of talk which should be listened for.

"I might just jump off a bridge instead of do my homework."

"Oh shoot me."

"Who even cares what happens to me anyway?"

"Its not like anyone would care."

"I would rather be dead than go out tonight."

"I can't do this anymore."

"I hate myself."

These sorts of comments are so commonly said in conversation, and generally are dismissed by others but if you strip away the comedic background that they are used in, you can see the weight these words carry. If you hear someone talking like this, take them aside privately and let them know you are worried. Ask them how everything is in their life and if they are alright. Show them that you care and are there for them. 

2) Dramatic changes in personality.

This can be a very, very big indicator that a person is really at the last straw. This is how it happened for my friend.

Jake (name has been changed so that he can remain anonymous) was always like a big brother to me. I had known him since I was born, and he had always been the one to look out for me as a kid. He was so incredibly considerate, but had a cheeky flare in him. Through his teenage years and my own, both of us developed depression and anxiety. His anxiety was a lot worse than mine, and he often talked to me about how he struggled with the temptation to end his life. More than that, he chose to listen to me. He asked me how I was and paid more attention to those around him than himself. He was always thoughtful, gentle and considerate- that was his nature. I was aware that when he dipped, suicide was something he thought about a lot, but he spoke of it regularly to the point it was more of an escape mechanism. I believed he felt better knowing that it was an option if things did get unbearable for him, but he never would have done it. About of month, or two months before his funeral, he had been messaging me frequently. He told me how low he was feeling, but his attitude towards me changed. He insisted that we met up (we lived 200 miles apart) but he was adamant that it was for reasons which I did not want. He became aggressive and verbally abusive when I said no. He began asking me to send photographs of myself, trying to emotionally challenge me into it through how low he felt. Once again, when I refused he was never pleased. I eventually had to cut ties with him because he was sending me pictures of his genitals when I told him not to. It was very difficult to deal with at the time or know the correct response. I remember thinking how much he had changed, and how he would never have treated me like that before, but nothing alarmed me at the time. Now, I understand that he was on the edge. This was him changing as he desperately sought something to live for, and I should have seen it coming.

I myself, in the months leading up to my attempt, was told by many people that I was not the happy cheery person that I used to be. I was more laid back, quiet and sarcastic. I cared about barely anything, and I had more of an attitude. I cut people off, lots of people. If they wasted my time, or hurt me they were gone instantly. So, keep an eye out for changes in a personality. It's a big warning sign. 

3) Changes in appearance.

be aware of a person who makes dramatic changes in their appearance. For example, someone who completely changes their style, or someone who neglects their hygiene altogether. Watch for dramatic weight gain or weight loss. When I was breaking down, I often cut my hair. I went from hair that almost touched my bum, to a bob during my trials at school. Pay attention to a person who dyes there hair in a very out-of-the-blue manner. People who make unexpected changes may do it for various reasons, but some of them include desperately wanting something to change in their life, or a self hatred or lack of attention to their needs which they are displaying. 

4) Being Flaky

Of course, there are those who are just in general bad at being organised and accidentally arrange to meet two different people at the same time without realising it- there are exceptions to this rule. However, if someone makes plans, which they are genuinely excited about, but bail at the last minute, repeatedly- warning bells. This is one of my most common habits, which is a result of feeling too low to meet people at the last minute. It is also a way of isolating yourself from others, and damaging relationships by becoming less and less reliable.

5) Cutting Ties

If a person begins more arguments than usual, especially over petty things, it can be a bad sign. When it escalates into this person cutting off others, and shutting down friendships then you should be concerned. Even if they say they are or aren't, it should be clear, and it should not be ignored. This is a person distancing themselves, and preparing themselves and others for what they are going to do. If they cut you off, you are probably feeling hurt and angry because they have treated you like dirt but don't just walk away. Warn someone who still is close with them if it is too difficult for you to continue the relationship but don't just leave it. 

6) Noticing they act very spontaneous, irrational and reckless.

Recklessness in particular, is a dangerous sign. A person acting in this way displays that they do not have much concern for their safety of health anymore. They may be looking a reaction, or testing to see if anyone cares about what they do. Often as well, they may feel so numb and low that they are climbing to desperate measures to feel something- anything. If a person is putting themselves in harms way, you should say more to them than just to stop, but tell them you are genuinely concerned and why. 

7) Sensitivity

The person may be very up-down, or appear very at their end. They may break down or cry for a short period of time, over something which may appear relatively small and then pick themselves up and allow everyone to believe that they are alright. In reality, the chances are that they are at their very limits of what they feel they can handle and are breaking down. Be very aware of how they are speaking when they are going through this, i.e. if they are saying life is not worth living or they don't feel like they can continue. A person may be highly emotional like this, or they may be very numb and disconnected. This may mean in group settings they are always a little far off, never paying attention and very blank. Hours before I attempted suicide, I was with friends and had found out someone had been treating me badly behind my back. I cried in front of them all and blurted out in MacDonald's bathrooms to one girl, 'I cant do this anymore, I can't keep going.' She never asked questions, she never spoke about it and to this day she does not know what happened after that. If she had have known, or someone else, there is a chance that her response could have prevented what happened.

All in all, never rule out anyone for being suicidal. Some people are incredibly good at hiding their pain because they feel like too much of a burden already to people to be sharing how they feel. If you have the slightest suspect that a person is considering suicide as an option, act immediately. Don't hold back, although it is a difficult thing to know how to address or talk about, most people really just need someone to listen to them, and to notice that they are hurting. 

There are many more intricate details and signs to look out for, these are points learned from experiences in my own life, but here are additional websites providing more information on the signs.

If you yourself are struggling with life, then I would recommend you look at these websites or call these numbers. Speaking to the right person is the first step to healing, so please do it. You can get through this- take it from someone who has been there.

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