"Are you thinking about killing yourself?"
"Do you have a plan?"
"Do you have means to do it?"
As a counsellor, I have been asking those questions for the last 16 years. The third question is always the most difficult because the answer feels so final. If they are confident enough in their plan to have a means to carry it out, we are really close to losing them.
According to suicide.org:
· Over one million people die by suicide worldwide each year
· The global suicide rate is 16 per 100,000 population
· On average, one person dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world
· 1.8% of worldwide deaths are suicides
· Global suicide rates have increased 60% in the past 45 years.
The statistics amongst teenagers and young adults are even more concerning. According to The World Health Organization, suicide was the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds globally in 2012.
There is one student I often reflect on. He was the one I thought about when I went home at night, wondering if I would see him the next day. I walked into my office one morning to find him sitting with his head in his hands. His voice was quiet when he spoke to me: "I almost did it last night. I was sitting in my room with the gun. It was loaded. I had it in my mouth and my finger on the trigger. Then I heard it - my mom. She had just come home and called out my name. I stopped."
Many teens report an urge to kill themselves that lasts a short time. If they can get through it, they do not complete suicide. If they do not have access to end their life, they wake up the next day. If someone interrupts them, they can get help before the urge strikes again. If they have someone to reach out to, we see them at school.
Identifying one trusted person to share their thoughts with. This is what we desperately hope for in the fight to save their life.
Human connection is a powerful thing. When it seems there is no one who understands, a hand reaching out may be the one thing that begins the journey towards seeking help.
Asking about suicidal thoughts or feelings won't make someone attempt it. In fact, offering an opportunity to talk about feelings may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings.
· Talking about suicide
· Having the means to take their life (weapons, pills, etc)
· Withdrawing from friends/family
· Preoccupation with death
· Feeling helpless/hopeless
· Changing daily routines
· Engaging in risky behaviour
· Giving away personal belongings
· Saying goodbye.
If you have concerns about someone, get help from a trained professional immediately. Call your local emergency number and contact a family member. Do not leave them alone until you are able to connect them with someone who can help.
Any suicide is one too many. Their story does not have to end this way.
Sara Lindburg has a B.S. in Exercise Science and an M.Ed. in Counselling. A 41-year-old wife, mother, and full-time secondary school counsellor, she combines 20-plus years' experience in the fitness and counselling fields and she has found her passion in inspiring other women to be the best version of themselves on her Facebook page FitMom. Her inspiration for writing comes from her 6-year-old son, Cooper, and 8-year-old daughter, Hanna.