HAVE you ever heard of someone saying life isn’t worth living, I feel like there’s no way out, there’s nothing I can do to make things better or I’d be better off dead? If your answer is yes, then take these as warning signs of someone who is having suicidal thoughts. Move! speaks to mental health practitioner, Thokozane Chiloane, about the matter.

WHAT RESEARCH SAYS

Suicide doesn’t discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities are at risk of developing suicidal thoughts.

Although it is considered one of the leading causes of death, suicide is preventable. It has been indicated that many people who consider suicide do not want to die, but see suicide as a solution to their problems.

Many who commit suicide feel hopeless, helpless, worthless and believe that there is no one who can help them with what they are facing and as a result fail to take steps to solve their problems. This makes them overwhelmed with personal failure.

Thokozane says in most cases people who have gone through some pretty hectic experiences in life may contemplate killing themselves.

CAUSES OF SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

According to Thokozane, things such as losing a loved one, loss of employment or debt may lead to people contemplating committing suicide.

She says in some instances, people who have been physically or sexually abused or those who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness might contemplate suicide. She says most people who consider taking their own lives have a personal or family history of suicide attempts, a family history of severe anxiety, depression or mental health problems and they might also have a drug or alcohol problem.

THE SIGNS OF SUICIDE

Having thoughts of death is one of the things that should be taken seriously. According to Thokozane, risk factors vary by age, gender and ethnic group.

Warning signs of someone who might be thinking of taking their own life include being depressed or in a sad mood, there is a change in their sleeping patterns, they speak or move with unusual speed or slowness, always talking about death, lost interest in things they used to care about, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, experiencing fatigue or loss of energy and withdrawal from family and friends.

She says some will talk about killing themselves or post it on social media. Suicidal people can even go to the extent of getting their affairs in order such as paying off debt, changing a Will and may also obtain a weapon or write a suicide note.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT SOMEONE IS SUICIDAL

The first step when you suspect that someone is suicidal is to help them by referring them to a social worker, psychologist or clinic, where they can talk to a professional.

“People who are suicidal eventually succeed if they don’t get the help they require. Often others will take them for granted and think that it’s just attention seeking behaviour and give up on them. We must not give up because they eventually kill themselves,” says Thokozane.

She says you must talk openly with the person whose life might be nearing the end. “If the person was diagnosed with a particular life-threatening illness, don't be shy to bring it up as it shows support and concern.

By talking about suicide, you show the person that you truly care about them because if there is no connection, the person may continue to have suicidal thoughts. If they feel isolated this might contribute to the challenge they might be facing and escalate their pain.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Thokozane advises people not to take suicidal thoughts or attempts lightly. Even though there is not enough awareness about suicide, there are support groups that assist such people to deal with the challenges.

She says when talking to a person you think might be suicidal, it’s very important not to dismiss what they’re saying. While this makes sense, we might minimise a person’s pain without even realising it.

If the person talks about negative situations, try to encourage them by sharing some of the bad experiences that might have happened in your life and let them know how you overcame those challenges.

She says you have to find a way of approaching that particular person and let them know that you are concerned about them. It is important to listen to what that person might be saying because this is regarded as one of the best ways to help the person in danger, according to Thokozane.

“You have to give the person a chance to say how they are feeling and what they’re going through,” she says.

WHERE TO GET HELP

Talking to a professional can assist one to see beyond the feelings of loneliness and they might realise that there are options to solve their challenges.

A trauma counsellor or psychologist can be helpful in this regard. Thokozane says talking to a family member or friend about how you feel might help to ease away the pain.

“There are several telephone helplines that one can call at any time of the day or night where you can speak to someone who understands how you feel and help you through the crisis you might be facing,” she says.

USEFUL CONTACTS

Federation of Mental Health 011 339 2621

FAMSA 011 975 7106

Lifeline SA 011 715 2000

Suicide Crisis Line 0800 12 13 14

South African Depression and Anxiety Group 0800 12 13 14