As the Coronavirus continues force us into lockdowns and quarantines, and consistently adjust to “new normals”, millions of individuals are suffering silently. Some thoughts might to start to swirl through our minds – hopes of not waking up from sleep or thoughts of wanting to press pause and end it all. Many tend to suffer in isolation falling deeper into our own despair.
When an individual gets stuck in this orbit of despair, suicide may seem like the only option. Luckily, they are not alone. They have people like you, who deeply care about them. Especially in these uncertain times, understanding suicide and the triggers is essential and can prove to be lifesaving. While it can be a scary and daunting task, this section will start to break it what to look out for and what to do if you see your loved one struggling.
Guide to help your loved ones.
- Recognise the warning signs.
- Social Withdrawal: Your loved one may start to disconnect from their friends and no longer attends social gatherings (even on Zoom).
- Excessive Sadness or moodiness: Long-lasting sadness, mood swings or unexpected rage.
- Feeling of Hopelessness: Losing hope about a brighter future and improved circumstances.
- Changed personality and/or appearance: Your loved one may start to show or exhibit different behaviours or attitudes. They may also start to become less bothered about their personal appearance and hygiene.
- Sleeping too much or too little.
If you observe any of these changes in your loved ones, the next step is to reach out to them and ask how they are doing. It is important for you to be mentally present with them and provide them the space to talk about their struggles. Even if the response is “I’m fine” or “I’ll figure it out”, try to dig a bit deeper and not settle for these answers – carefully nudge them by asking again, showing that you really care about what is going on. By being genuine and caring, your loved one may feel safe enough to open up to you.
- Be Direct - Ask about Suicide
Your loved one may be hesitant to express their feelings and thoughts to anyone. By asking directly, you can show your loved one that you are an ally and can open the space for the person to respond. By asking directly about suicide, the person can feel seen and acknowledged, and thus more likely to answer truthfully.
- Be present with the person
While these conversations can definitely be scary, by patiently listening to your loved one, refraining from telling them what to do, and encouraging their narrative, you can allow the person to feel heard. The simple act of feeling heard and acknowledged can bring immense relief to the person and already start to reduce their despair and distress.
- Assess the level of severity
An important step to take is to actually assess the severity level of the person’s suicide-realities. Different severity levels can help you decide what next step to take. Severity levels can be broken down into three broad categories.
- Suicidal thoughts, ideation, or planning: The individual is having passive thoughts about suicide. They may wish to be dead, to go to sleep and not wake up, or have been considering suicide.
- Suicide Planning: The individual is more actively considering suicide. They have intent to act on their thoughts, begun to develop a plan and started to put their affairs in order.
- Suicide attempt: The individual is in the moment before attempting suicide or is in the process.
**If the person endorses an imminent suicide plan or in-progress suicide attempt, please contact emergency numbers (see below), or take them to the nearest hospital.
Creating a safety plan (Only be done if the crisis is not emergency/urgent)
A safety plan is a well-written set of steps that you and your loved one can create to keep them safe. When this person may feel themselves being pulled back into their suicidal thoughts, they can use this plan to help create distance.
You can help your loved one create a list of activities that calms and comforts them: These can range from practicing meditations, doing their favorite hobby, engaging in a physical activity, or even breathing exercises.
List reasons for Living: This list will help them to refocus their attention on positive thoughts until the suicidal thoughts subside. They can consider writing about their family, friends, health or faith.
List of Trusted Contact information: Creating a list of contact that they can connect with when they are unable to distract themselves. The list can include their significant other, friends, relatives or a religious leader.
- Help them connect to a mental health care professional.
You can connect them with Veera, where we can take care of the guesswork and help your loved one connect with mental healthcare professionals. While they are going through this process, it can be helpful to periodically check in with them. Sometimes it may take the person a few attempts to finally reach out Veera or the trained mental health professional. By following up with them, you can show your care and understanding. Discuss what is holding them back and see if you can work through those things together.
If you know someone who may need someone to talk to immediately, share the contact information for the Mental Health Rehabilitation helpline
Reviewed & Edited by Rohini Bagrodia, Ph.D. in training, Clinical Psychologist