Okay, this isn’t going to be an easy topic to tackle but Tvtropes and Cracked both have their own page about suicide and what can be said or done to prevent it so I decided that it’s high time for GRP to have something similar. We all know that suicide is another issue that is somewhat uncomfortable to discuss with fellow Filipinos but as a site devoted to change, I’m hoping we can do our part in helping. Now look, I’m not a professional or anything but so are most of the people who will probably be reading this. I’m just doing this in case one of you average folk out there ever find yourself in a situation where someone you know is going to commit suicide or is at least contemplating it.
However, what’s written here are mostly just recommended actions. They are not to be taken as an “instruction manual” of any kind as different suicides involve different people and situations. Instead, let this serve as an amateur’s guide of sorts in case you encounter this kind of predicament.
Let me note that most suicides are caused by depression. Not all suicides are due to depression, mind you, but it’s pretty much accepted that depression plays a huge part in the rate of suicides. There are varying reasons for depression and suicide from general sadness, mental instability, financial problems, heartbreak, loneliness or even just boredom, but none of these are to ever be taken lightly. While suicide might be prevalent among certain people like those afflicted with PTSD, people with troublesome or no romantic relationships or those afflicted with debilitating or life-threatening conditions, it should be noted that just about anyone is likely to commit suicide no matter how small their problems may seem so long as they happen in a way to deeply affect the person in question. It can be anything from anything terrible happening or just a sequence of bad things happening in their day, it all adds up to the point that they want to kill themselves. Triggers for suicide can range from their family leaving them to something as seemingly insignificant as being ignored by people.
Unfortunately, here in the Philippines, due to the backward nature of most people, suicide is poorly understood and few people know how to handle such issues properly. While there are many professionals in the country who probably know how to defuse the situation, it’s sad to note that most of the common people probably do not and only make things worse. That’s one of the reason why I’m putting this up here to start with.
I’m not saying this with any certainty but I have always believed in the maxim “better safe than sorry”. Here are just a few things to watch out for if you think someone you know might be planning to commit suicide. Again, I’m not saying that doing or saying any of the following is enough to mean that someone is contemplating suicide but I will repeat what I said about it’s better to be wrong about the issue than to dismiss the thought and find the person in question dead later. Anyway, take note of the following:
- The person is giving away prized possessions because they say they “don’t need them anymore”
- Traveling to places and doing things not previously explored because they’d like to “see everything before they go”
- Collecting items and weapons that can be considered lethal (i.e.: poisons, razors, guns etc.)
- The person makes frequent mention of preferences for their funeral such as:
- What they’d like to wear when they’re buried
- What music they’d like to be played for their funeral
- Who they wish would come to their funeral
- Making out wills and arrangements for family members
- Making unexpected calls and saying goodbye as if never to be seen again
- Tell-tale phrases like the following:
- “I wish I could just go to sleep and never wake up.”
- “I’m going somewhere far away and never coming back.”
- “Will you miss me if I died?”
- “Would anyone remember me if I died?”
- “I wish I hadn’t been born.”
- “If I see you again…”
- “I’m probably better off dead anyway.”
Like I said, not that many average Filipinos know how to handle a suicide issue and, worse yet, they often look at it from the wrong perspective. Here are just a few of the many misleading ideas on suicide:
- “Suicidal ideas go away on their own.”
- No, they most certainly do NOT. If a person is depressed, their thoughts aren’t going to go away anytime soon. Even with professional help and even medications, it may take time for suicidal ideas to go away.
- “If you’re not a professional, then there’s probably nothing you can do for them.”
- While it’s true that professionals have a better grasp of the situation, it doesn’t mean that they’re the only ones that can prevent a suicide. Even a common person can help especially if he/she is a lover/friend/relative/acquaintance of the suicidal person.
- “Calling the authorities is the best solution.”
- Okay, maybe in some other country where all emergency personnel (including police and firefighters) are trained to handle suicides, it might work. But remember, we’re in the Philippines, I doubt most cops even know how to approach a potential suicide. Worse, I doubt they’d even really care. Instead, try to approach someone who may know the person in question with someone who is particularly close to them like a spouse, family member or best friend.
- “Men are more serious about suicide than women.”
- This is somewhat true, but never underestimate someone’s desire to commit suicide. Don’t ignore women attempting suicide or saying they will commit suicide because they are every bit as capable of going through with it but often lack the resolve in going about it. Suicide isn’t just about gender, it’s about a person’s mindset and resolve.
- “Only teens are prone to suicide.”
- EVERYONE is prone to suicide. Teens, middle-aged people who have lost their jobs or their families and elderly folk who give in to despair are all potentially suicidal.
- “People who are suicidal are dangerous.”
- This can be somewhat true as well but it’s important to help in whatever way you can. If you’re doubtful about how you will approach the situation, it might be better to call someone who knows the person in question better. Otherwise, if left with no one near to hand, bring a friend or two with you just in case things get difficult.
- “It’s easy to tell when a person has suicidal ideas.”
- No, it is not. Yes, suicidal people do cry a lot, but they often choose to hide this from other people as this may be seen as a sign of weakness. A person can even seem euphoric before they commit suicide so always be on the look out for anything suspicious they might be up to. You see, some suicidal people even become seemingly happy because they’ve already made plans to commit suicide, so watch out for this sudden change in mood. Just because they seem happy means they are already “okay”.
- “Medication/hospitalization will fix suicide.”
- Medications to ease depression can help calm the person down but remember this works differently on different people. Some might even use their medications to kill themselves.
- “Simple solutions like religion/sobriety/positive thinking will fix the problem.”
- No, they won’t. They aren’t enough. To fix issues of this sort, you may need more than just simple solutions. Suicidal depression also doesn’t disappear overnight.
- “A person who talks about suicide won’t really do it.”
- Well, this does help them blow off steam but don’t take this at face value. They could still be planning suicide as we speak. Again, it’s better to assume that they will rather than dismiss the idea and find them dead later.
- “Avoid talking about suicide because they might get the idea to do so.”
- Talking about suicide actually helps ease their tension. It’s better to have it out in the open rather than wait for them to go through with their ideas.
- “Suicidal people don’t want help-professional or otherwise.”
- Most suicides are essentially a cry for help. Most people who have committed suicide have a history of seeking professional/medical help. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.
What to Do
- Approach with caution always, especially if you don’t know the person in question. Like I said, they might be dangerous so keep your distance.
- Get someone who might be close to them to speak to them such as a family member or close friend (if you don’t qualify as either).
- Get some friends or other people to help you defuse the situation but keep them back. Let them move in later when things have been properly accounted for or when things go pear-shaped such as when the person in question starts fighting back with a lethal weapon.
- Talk to the person but remember to be cautious.
- Here are a few tips on how to do this correctly:
- Be yourself. Let the person in question feel your concern. Sometimes, the words you say won’t even matter. Let your voice and manner ease the person’s problems.
- Listen to the person’s problems. Let them unload everything. While the topic might be negative, it’s more important to hear them out as that will drain their negativity.
- Be sympathetic, accepting and patient.
- Give them hope. Tell them that their suicidal depression is just temporary and that there are things that they can look forward to. Tell them that their lives mean something.
- Here is what you should NOT do:
- Do NOT argue with suicidal people.
- Do NOT mention: “Look on the bright side!” “You have so much to live for!” “Your suicide will hurt your family!” etc.
- Do NOT lecture them on the value of life or that suicide is wrong.
- Do NOT promise confidentiality or total secrecy. Keep their secrets but be prepared to call the authorities or the right people when worst comes to worst.
- Do NOT lecture them on their lives.
- Do NOT offer solutions to their current problems.
- Here are a few tips on how to do this correctly:
- Disarm the suicidal person. Remove razors, poisons, guns or explosives from the person about to commit suicide or move them away from high ledges and windows or get them out of their cars.
- Wait for the person to calm down before leaving the scene.
- Keep tabs on said person and make sure that they are never alone.
If things don’t go accordingly and the said person goes through with their suicide, do NOT blame yourself. Remember, you did what you could as an amateur and that counts for something. It wasn’t your fault. It was THEY who chose to end their lives, NOT you.
And please, feel free to add corrections or voice your views in the comment section below.
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