With the tremendous amount of headlines not talking enough about suicide prevention, it is important to recognize the signs when the people we are closest to might need help. After volunteering with the Crisis Text Line for over a year, I am shocked at how many people struggle with the thought of suicide everytime I take a shift. We always talk about the signs to look out for regarding depression, detachment, a lack of interest in things that used to bring joy or changes in eating habits. What if I were to tell you that there are other signs to look out for that are not talked about because they are obvious and ordinary?
Your friend is always helping people. Your friend is the life of the party. Your friend is someone that is there for everyone. That is normally what you hear during the shock of someone taking their own life. While people can be energy vampires, remember that your friend who is always supporting you is usually taking the weight of your problems along with theirs. Did you remember to ask them how they were doing?
2. You never know how that person is really feeling except through external signals.
Speaking of asking that friend how they are doing, when was the last time you did that? It never hurts to check in with people, even if they are the type that hates when people ask those three words - 'How are you?' The people we are taught to look for signs in are reclusive but, from personal experience, the people that I have lost are outgoing and involved in helping cats, youth or bartending. Normally, these people silently suffer because helping so many have left them empty.
3. Sharing quote cards or memes.
Ok. Everyone does this. What if I told you that the obsession with quote cards is that they provide something that we desire? A quote card could say the words that you are not brave enough to say out loud to a friend or partner that betrayed you. It could be slight pet peeves that leave you frustrated at the end of the day. This could also be used as a passive-aggressive way to say what you need to say to someone. Regardless, if something strikes you in the gut, reach out. Sometimes, a quote card is exactly what the person wants to say in colors, photos and/or text. It takes three seconds to say, 'Hey, what did you mean by that post you shared?'
4. A recent breakup or argument.
Most people tend to take a reclusive approach when a clash with a loved one arises. Go to a friend when they need to vent - while respecting your friend's boundaries - hug them a little tighter or make plans for a sleepover with movies and popcorn. We often forget that when a person is hurting, they don't really want to be alone. I believe this to be true even when the person puts up the barrier wall of, 'I just need some space.' When emotions are high enough for a person to want to vent about them they are probably needing validation and someone to love them. Afterall, suicides happen when people are alone. Suicide generally doesn't happen in a room full of people.
5. The least expected person.
So many times, I have been to wakes, celebrations of life and funerals and all the people say, 'I just had no idea.' There lies the problem. We all know that everyone has their own issues and challenges. How hard is it to be there for everyone in your life? Yes. You have your own life and all of your issues and challenges. However, regardless of living in a time where people are more connected than ever, some of our friends, brothers or sisters can go days without speaking to a single person.
I am not saying that these are signs of suicide but could potentially be as these are signs of ones that I have lost to suicide. Everytime, I am one of those saying, 'I didn't see any of the signs.' Yet, the signs were there all along.
With all of the talking about kindness and love, I think human beings have a long, long way to go to conquer suicide. When we stop stigmatizing people for reaching out or acting out, we will help save lives. When people stop using the phrase, 'They're crazy' and start reaching out to that person to see what is going on, we will know love. When we realize that people just need love and acceptance, we will have fewer people feeling alone.
Hug all of those that you love so tight that they can't forget that they are loved. Trust when your instincts tell you that you should stick around or ask how someone is doing. Remember, most people contemplating suicide suffer in complete silence. They don't want you to know that they are feeling pain and/or they don't want to burden anyone with their pain. Taking a few extra minutes or a night to make sure friends and family are ok is far greater than having to miss the ones you love for the rest of your life.