Ask the Question!

Ever want to ask the question and hesitate? The fear of what the answer may be can be crippling.  Your eyes are not deceiving you, your heart is not misleading you, and your perception is not blurry, yet it can be difficult to ask.  Despite suicide being the 10th leading cause of death in the US and the 2nd leading cause of death in ages 13-24, many find it difficult to talk about and harder to ask someone if suicide is on the mind.

It is time to push pass the fear holding us back from connecting with one another.  Fear is a terrible guide, that is not fear’s job, and yet we allow fear to lead us too many times.  Yes, the thought of someone you care about completing a suicide is scary and heart wrenching. And the thought of not knowing how to support or reach out leaves some frozen.  There are remnants of the thought, that if you ask someone, “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?; Are you thinking about killing yourself?”, that you would then put the thought in the person’s head.  The person may answer “yes”, “no”, or “I don’t know what to do.”  This is information showing us we need to intervene.  If someone is thinking about suicide, your question is not going to give them ideas.  If someone wasn’t thinking about suicide, this will not lead the person towards it, it can begin a conversation.

Either way the person you ask will learn you care, you are paying attention to the actions, words, and behaviors being exhibited and expressed.  We are relational people and need one another to survive, to move through life.  Asking someone about suicide does not mean you need to have all the answers and it does not mean you have to solve every problem.  It means you have noticed and care enough to ask.  You can then point the person in the direction of help.

September is Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month.  It is important to understand the warning signs and risk factors that can lead to suicide.  It is also important to know how to intervene.  It is not good enough to hope your family member, friend, coworker, classmate, peer, colleague, neighbor, congregation member, or community member will get better.  If you see the warning signs or witness the risk factors it is time to intervene.

Dr. Granello eloquently shares, “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”  When a person is having thoughts of suicide, there is a dilemma, a circumstance, a problem that appears to have no solution or end.  Dr. E. Duran passionately expresses how suicidal ideation reflects struggles in transformation (often the transformation is unclear).  Professional counselors, therapists, and psychologists are able to provide care and support.

If you notice the person making statements about death or dying, withdrawing from family, friends, activities, community, expressions of hopelessness, aggressive behavior, mood swings, extreme sleep changes, increased alcohol or drug use, suffering job loss, impulsive or reckless behavior these are warning signs of suicide.

If you notice someone giving away possessions, collecting means to kill self, saying good-bye to those cared for, or putting things in order these are emergency signs and 9-1-1 needs to be called.

Risk factors that can increase the probability of suicide are: loss of a loved one, history of trauma or abuse, prolonged stress, loss of relationships, serious or chronic illness (mental or physical), intoxication, substance abuse, previous attempts of suicide, and family history of suicide.

When you ask the person be kind and direct.  Allow the person to express how the situation is being experienced.  Speak calmly and be patient. Acknowledge the pain.  Restrain from inserting your opinion about suicide. Remove any means of completing suicide. Inform about help.  If possible go with the person to receive help.  And always follow up with the person.

We must be more open and able to discuss suicide to save lives.


National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-8255     Veterans Crisis Line 800-273-8255      Crisis Text Line - Text HELLO to 741741, Free, 24/7, Confidential     notOK app

Speak Your Mind


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