There is something that can be quite excruciating about the ending of a human life through suicide, particularly for those of us fortunate enough to have had emotional support or professional help to get us through difficult times.
The suffering and waste of potential is tragic and even more tragic is the knowledge, after the fact, that the person had been exhibiting suicidal tendencies for some time, but those around them did not know the signs. In these situations, it is often the case that friends reviewing past behaviours in a group put pieces of the puzzle together, and then it seems quite obvious that the person needed help, but in isolation, the signs were unclear.
In the aftermath of a suicide, family are friends are often left wondering if they could have done more to prevent it, and struggle with guilt for a long time afterwards.
By talking the whole situation over during professional counselling, people affected by suicide are better able to deal with the grief and loss. One of the key questions people in this situation will ask is “why didn’t I see it?” Of course, they didn’t know what to look for but there are some warning signs that can set off flashing lights, especially if the person had been depressed or trying to deal with some deep issue on their own.
Often the first hints are in the conversations had with the person.
- Repeated negative statements that everyone would be better off without them, or they can’t deal with things any more, or not being able to see a way out of their predicament can be key indicators.
- There is no joy in their interactions with others, and they give an impression of helplessness and disengagement with society.
- They may actually say they would be better off dead.
- Other key signs are the sudden withdrawal from family and friends and loss of interest in favourite activities.
- Regular sleeping patterns may become erratic,
- they may have difficulty making decisions, or to think or concentrate.
- Two particular significant changes in behaviour point to someone who is at high risk. A suicidal person can suddenly put effort into getting their affairs in order, such as paying off debts or changing a will, and appear unusually generous as they give away personal articles or things of monetary value.
- The most disturbing sign is finding the person writing a suicide note or arranging the means.
A person exhibiting these behaviours must have immediate professional assistance from a psychologist or medical professional. There is a lot that can be done to assist people with suicidal tendencies to get their lives back on track, and seeking professional assistance is the first step.
With the advances made in mental health and the support of family and friends, people who feel their life is over can be helped to regain their place in society.
Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).