When you read a report that says Malaysian youth feel suicidal about their jobs, you may be tempted to dismiss the report – “youth always exaggerate!” or “we’ve all been there. they will get used to it”.
What are the chances someone would actually go ahead with it? Don’t people just say “I feel like dying” all the time? You may know why the person is saying this (e.g. feeling stuck in a job) but having a reason does not mean the person is not feeling suicidal. An explanation for the person’s intentions to commit suicide does not mean the person will not attempt to commit suicide.
The expression may sometimes be used flippantly, but it carries an intention that is far too serious for us to just dismiss. 30% of people who commit suicide have expressed suicide intentions.
- Assess the person. 90% of suicides are committed by individuals who are suffering from a mental health problem. Signs to look for include a change in mood and behaviour. Is this person feeling down? Is this person withdrawing from social contact? Does this person feel a sense of hopelessness? Hopelessness is one of the key predictors of suicide. Do they agree with statements such as : “I might as well give up because there’s nothing I can do to make things better for me” or “I never get what I want, so it’s foolish to want anything”? 90% of people who are feeling severely hopeless will attempt to commit suicide.
- Assess the thought. The risk of suicide increases when a person goes from thinking about suicide to having an actual plan to commit suicide. 70% of people who express having a plan to commit suicide will actually attempt to commit suicide. Do they have a firm idea on where, when and how they are going to take their life?
Take every expression of suicide seriously. Care for them enough to take them seriously when they are expressing a desire to end their life. No matter how flippantly they may have said it, or how much they try to downplay it after. If the person is experiencing distress, encourage the person to talk to a mental health professional about what’s going on. Your role is to support, and their role is to treat.
If you believe someone has a plan that they are going to go ahead with, accompany the person to the Emergency Room of a Public Hospital to get immediate treatment.
Beck, A. T., Brown, G., Berchick, R. J., Stewart, B. L., & Steer, R. A. (1990). Relationship between hopelessness and ultimate suicide: a replication with psychiatric outpatients. American Journal of Psychiatry, 147, 190- 195.
Carmel M. McAuliffe (2002) Suicidal Ideation as an Articulation of Intent: A Focus for Suicide Prevention?, Archives of Suicide Research, 6:4, 325-338, DOI: 10.1080/13811110214524
Drum, D. J., Brownson, C., Burton Denmark, A., & Smith, S. E. (2009). New data on the nature of suicidal crises in college students: Shifting the paradigm. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(3), 213.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Suicide Risk Assessment Guide. Retrieved from www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_risk_assessment_guide.doc