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Suicide Awareness and Prevention

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Everyone, at times, feels sad, alone, hopeless. For the majority of people these feelings are situational. They are a natural response to a bad event or a series of bad events. Over time the feelings pass and the individuals return to their normal emotional state.

For others, however, depression is a lifelong battle, something that must be dealt with every day. There are a number of treatments for depression. Not all treatments work the same for all people. If you, or someone you know, is clinically depressed, encourage that person to seek the care of a professional.

Warning Signs: What To Look For

Sometimes depression, be it chronic or situational, can lead to thoughts of suicide. While often viewed as a mark of insanity by the general populous, for those contemplating a life ending action it is a rational choice given what they are confronting. According to information complied by the Centers for Disease Control in 2010 (the most recent data set), suicide was the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. There are a number of socio-economic risk factors which influence the likelihood of someone taking his or her life. In general, males are more at risk for successful suicide attempts despite a higher instance of attempts by females. This is mostly likely a result of males relying on more lethal methods (firearms and hanging vs overdose and exsanguination).

There are a number of other risk factors which may be present in those who attempt suicide. These include mood disorders, substance abuse, job loss, physical illness, personal or family history of suicide attempts, termination of a long term relationship, and lack of personal support.

There are also a number of warning signs that people should be aware of. These vary from the fairly obvious -- discussing feeling hopeless, trapped, or in constant pain, talking about committing suicide, attempting to acquire the means to commit suicide -- to the more subtle. Changes in sleeping habits, violent mood swings, withdrawing from friends and family, increased use of alcohol or drugs, giving away prized possessions, failure to find enjoyment in favorite activities, and withdrawing from friends and family are also indicators which may reveal someone with suicidal ideation.

Identification and Support: What To Do

If you suspect a friend, family member, or colleague is thinking about or even planning suicide, the best the best thing that you can do is talk to them. Sometimes just knowing that there is someone out there who cares enough to spend the time listening is enough to change the way someone sees the world. Having the conversation is key, but just as important is remembering to remain nonjudgmental. The person you are speaking to is going through one of the most difficult times of his or her life. You are there to listen, and if necessary, suggest helping, healing options. Regardless of your opinion about the morality of taking ones own life, refrain from statements which will turn the person in need away from you.

It is equally important to recognize that you can not do everything yourself. Another excellent way to show the people in need that they are not alone is to literally show them that they are not alone. There are numerous websites, toll free numbers, and support groups which specialize in helping those who are contemplating suicide. Be willing to attend a support group with those in need of help. Bring them to a counselor or religious leader who will discuss their feelings with them.

In cases of immediate distress, it may be necessary to use more dramatic measures. Most hospital emergency rooms and psychiatric facilities have methods in place for dealing with those who may be a danger to themselves or others. While it may be outside your power to arrange to have someone temporarily committed, you can definitely work to show them that this is a step that they may need, something which they could do voluntarily.
Support From Unexpected Areas: Animals And Unconditional Love
If the person contemplating a life-ending action is feeling alone and abandoned, gently remind them of all of those who care about them. Everyone has friends and family who would be devastated by the loss of a loved one. Think about the amazing transformation at the end of It's a Wonderful Life. You have the opportunity to be someone's angel, just by talking to them.
Remember to avoid being preachy, judgmental, or heavy handed when doing this. You do not want to chastise the individual. The last thing that you want to do is make them feel worse or like they are failing those who care about them. Your goal is to provide them with an insight which they may be missing -- namely that while they might feel alone, they are surrounded by those who care about them.

This is not limited to just the people in their lives. Nothing in the world is as forgiving, nonjudgmental, or capable of providing unconditional love like a furry family member. There are numerous stories of people who have survived terrible hardships, who thought about completely giving up, but who were pulled back from the precipice because of the love of a good animal. It may seem trite or even childish, but when someone has come to the edge of their rope anything which can provide them with the stability and willingness to go on is a useful tool. A reminder that there is another being which loves them, lives for them, and depends upon them may be just the knowledge that they need.

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Shenita Etwaroo is an animal-loving author, advocate, artist, film producer, educator and vegan--and she's devoted her life to uplifting the voiceless of this world for the glory of God. In loving memory of her bunny companion, Neo, who (more...)

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