Finding Hope - Suicide Prevention Week

Suicide Prevention Week

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. A lot of us do not need a week to let us know that suicide exists and that loved ones are often taken from us too early – but many of us could benefit from learning the warning signs, and better understanding how to support our loved ones that are struggling.

There is an acronym that has been developed to help friends and family members to understand what warning signs to look for in regard to suicide:

IS PATH WARM*:

I – Ideation – Is the individual struggling with suicidal ideations? Thoughts in regards to suicide or ending one’s life.

S – Substance Abuse – Is the individual using drugs or alcohol? Has their use of these substances greatly increased over the past little while?

 

P – Purposelessness – A lack of purpose in life, potentially this comes across as a person saying they no longer see a reason to live, or that there is nothing for them in this life.

A – Anxiety – When anxiety increases, it at times can seem to be so overwhelming that nothing can help. While a small amount of anxiety might seem normal, if it continues to increase this is something to be aware of.

T – Trapped – When someone feels trapped they often think that there is no way out, that there is nothing they can do to help a problem. This might occur after a trauma, after a run in with the law, or a conflict with family members, or in regards to school or a job.

H – Hopelessness, Helplessness – A feeling that there is no hope for that person, that no one can help them now and that there is nothing to look forward to.

 

W – Withdrawn – This is when a person begins to isolate themselves from friends or family members, even activities. Someone that you know who used to be involved seems to no longer want to hang out with others, or to go to the same events that they used to attend.

A – Anger – Abrupt anger, or anger for seemingly no reason.

R – Recklessness – Behaving in a way that seems to have no regard for life, perhaps speeding, drinking, taking risks that could cause serious injury, walking close to an edge when on a cliff etc.

M – Mood Change – Often times we can tell when things are off with our friends or family members, this mood change would be quiet substantial. Our loved ones would be very different, and we would have trouble relating to them in the way we used to.

 

Other Signs to Look For:

Be aware of other signs as well, things like giving away possessions that are very important to a person, perhaps their favourite jacket, or something very valuable that they never would have wanted to part with. Is the person saying goodbye to a lot of people, or making definitive statements such as “the last time” or “the last one”? Be aware of these statements as well, and do not be afraid to engage in the conversation.

It can seem scary to talk to our friends or family members about suicide. At times it may feel like saying the word could give the person an idea, and that if we pretend like nothing is wrong it will be better for everyone. The truth is, if our friends or family members are struggling, us bringing up suicide is not going to give them a new idea, but provide a place for them to talk about the thoughts that they are having.

If you have noticed these signs in friends or family members, here are some steps you can take:

If it is a crisis situation, and you believe the person is in immediate danger and there is no way to stop them, call 911 immediately.

  • Ask the person to be honest with you, and to let you know if they are thinking about suicide. Let them know that you will be there for them.
    • Let them know you will do what is best for them, which might mean seeking help outside of yourself. Try not to promise that you won’t tell anyone, because if your loved one is in great danger – you’ll need to reach out for assistance.
  • Come up with a list of activities or places that help the person feel peaceful and calm.
    • Maybe your loved one has a few favourite songs, come up with a playlist they can listen to when they are starting to feel anxious, trapped, helpless, etc.
    • Is your loved one into art? Design a CALM BOX which has art supplies that they can access, and use those as a means of helping them find peace in the midst of difficulties.
    • Create a list of reasons why you appreciate and care about your friend or family member, help them see the difference that they have made in your life, and give them a copy to keep if they feel like their life has no purpose.
  • Put together a Safety Plan
    • Work together to create a plan on what your friend will do if they are beginning to think about dying by suicide.
      • Who will they call first?
      • Where will they go?
      • What things can they try to do to seek assistance
    • Ask them to sign a contract with you that says they will call someone if they are going to try and die by suicide.
  • Find a therapist that your friend can begin to meet with. If they want someone to go with them the first time, let them know you’d be willing to be a support person.Therapy can help from the earliest onset of suicidal thoughts, and even before one even contemplates suicide. If your friend is feeling anxious, and you’ve noticed that anxiety is a challenge – that would be a great time to encourage your friend to visit a therapist. Even slight mood changes can benefit from seeking therapy and developing coping skills. We do not need to wait till it is too late before we contact outside resources for assistance.

Suicide does not have to have the last word, but we can work together to prevent our friends and family members from losing their lives to suicide.

Let’s keep the conversation going.

If you are struggling with thoughts about suicide, please feel free to call us or email us. You can find more information on our Contact Us page. We are here to be of assistance to you.

Crisis Resources: 

Here 24/7 – Addictions, Mental Health & Crisis Services: 1.844.437.3247

Mental Health Resources

Find more Kitchener Waterloo Resources on our Resource Page

 

*IS PATH WARM is an acronym that was created by the American Association of Suicidology.

* The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) also uses IS PATH WARM within their discussions on suicide.

Suicide Prevention Week