Tips on preventing suicide, according to a licensed psychologist

Suicide is the 10th highest-leading cause of death in the world. It kills more than 800,000 people each year, and leaves over 20 million people, not including their friends and families, permanently damaged (whether physically or emotionally) by their close brush with it.

Suicide is classified as a major preventable cause of premature death and is influenced, largely, by genetic, psycho-social, cultural, environmental and economic factors; most of which are out of the hands of friends and families of victims and survivors alike.

And so, while it is natural to feel some form of guilt over the death (or failed attempt at death) of a loved one, we must take into consideration the factors that were out of our control and instead take reactive measures to the aforementioned risk factors.

Today marks the 15th annual celebration of World Suicide Prevention Day. This year’s theme, “take a minute, change a life,” emphasizes open-mindedness, understanding, compassion, and the severely underrated and overlooked value of (shared) time in saving a life.

The first step to offering help is figuring out whether an individual is at-risk. General indicators include:

1. Having a depressed or irritable mood

This ranges from feeling despondent or hopeless and losing interest in activities that were once enjoyable to feeling either rebellious or irritable. Such feelings may then result to a disruption in eating and sleeping patterns and social behavior.

2. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt

Insisting that they bring more harm than good to others, misplaced self-blame, loss of trust with oneself and others

3. Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Whether explicitly: verbal expression or social media posts of one’s wanting to die, or impliedly: isolation and detachment, selling or giving away personal possessions

*At-risk does not automatically mean suicidal. If you know someone who possesses some of these indicators, approach them as a friend first and foremost.

As their friend, always remember to…

1. Be available. Connect with the person but know to set limits as well.

Let them know that you are willing to listen, and make yourself available as much as you can, while of course, not neglecting your personal health and the matters that you need to attend to outside of your relationship with them.

2. Frequently check up on your friend

If they choose to open up to you, that means they trust you. Value this trust by frequently checking up on them. A simple “Hi!” or “How are you?” will suffice. “I thought of you today” and “This reminded me of you” is plenty sweet.  Some people are reluctant to share even after you have expressed your willingness to listen, so show your concern by making the first move.  

3. Always take suicidal and homicidal talk seriously. Refer to mental health professionals.

While it is never okay to joke about suicide, some people use humor to make light of the situation either for themselves or their loved ones. Do not take such talk lightly.Sincerely ask your friend how they’re doing. To some, the mere act of opening up, much more seeking out help is insurmountable or even embarrassing. Offer help with specific tasks, such as looking up therapists or clinics, and politely suggest that they seek out these options.

And lastly, if you yourself have been having suicidal thoughts or experiencing suicidal tendencies, Mrs Angelie D. Bautista, MA, RGC (Registered Guidance Counselor), who compiled these lists for us, suggest that you:

  1. Be aware of the red flags
  2. Talk about what you feel and
  3. Do not be ashamed to seek professional help

Mrs. Angelie D. Bautista is a Registered Guidance Counselor of UST’s Faculty of Arts and Letter

UST’s psycho-trauma clinic is open for appointments and consultations concerning psychological assessment and diagnosis, individual and group counselling and psychotherapy to Thomasians and non-Thomasians alike. Their clinic is located at the ground floor of the Thomas-Aquinas Research Complex building in UST and is open on Tuesdays to Fridays from 10am to 5pm.

by Veronica Cabanos

Art by Patty Ferriol