Suicide can be prevented

Openness and qualified, professional assistance can help prevent suicide, says chief psychologist at SOS International.

Most people will be affected by mental illness or a crisis at some point in their lives. For some, this crisis leads to suicidal ideation – and, at worst, attempted suicide or suicide. Those close to a suicidal person, or one suffering suicidal ideation, may find it difficult to work out how best to help.

- Suicide is a desperate attempt to end a pain that has become unbearable. But despite their focus on ending the pain, most people feel deeply conflicted about taking their own lives. Therefore, it is possible to help people with suicidal ideation, says Robert Jonasen, Chief Psychologist at SOS International.

If you suspect that a family member or a friend is suffering from suicidal ideation, it is important to talk to them about it. It may be difficult to talk about suicide or suicidal thoughts, but Robert Jonasen believes it must be done, nonetheless. A conversation could be started with comments like, "You've changed lately and I've been thinking about how you are really doing?" or, "You haven't been yourself lately and I'm worried about you".

Help to seek help

The first step to helping a person experiencing suicidal ideation is to talk about what it is that is so painful. Secondly, it is important to act as a guide to seeking help.

- Signalling that you take the person seriously and would like to help is important. You cannot remove the pain, but you can give them hope and let them know that their life is important to you, says Robert Jonasen.

Robert Jonasen emphasises that people experiencing suicidal ideation require qualified and professional help.

- Don’t attempt to find a solution yourself; that’s not your personal responsibility. Instead, you can do everything possible to get qualified help. You can call a crisis line and ask for advice and guidance or encourage the person to seek medical or psychological help. It's a good idea to help make an actual appointment to seek professional help and possibly accompany the person to the first appointment, says Robert Jonasen.

Myths and misconceptions

There are many myths and misconceptions relating to suicide - perhaps because it is a topic most of us would prefer not to talk about. Below are some common misconceptions about suicide:

People who talk about suicide don’t commit suicide.

Fact: Most who try to commit suicide have indicated it or warned about it beforehand. Therefore, do not ignore indirect allusions to death or suicide.

People trying to commit suicide haven’t received help.

Fact: Many seek help before committing suicide. Studies show that more than 50 percent of victims to suicide have sought medical attention six months prior to their death.

Speaking about suicide can inspire suicide.

Fact: In fact, the opposite is true - speaking openly and honestly about suicidal ideation and feelings can inspire others to seek help.

Once a person has experienced suicidal ideation, it’ll always be present.

Fact: Any increased risk of suicide is often short-lived and triggered by specific situations. Suicidal ideation is not necessarily a permanent condition.

When talking about suicide, it is important to take oneself and others seriously. Seeking qualified help as soon as possible is recommended if well-being and health are affected to the extent that the will to live is challenged. There are many ways to get in touch with the healthcare system. This can be done through a health insurance or through direct contact with a medical practitioner or on-duty psychiatric practitioner.

Behind every suicide or attempted suicide is an individual destiny and history. Nevertheless, certain population groups statistically at an increased risk of suicide may be highlighted:

  • Persons suffering mental illness
  • Persons who have previously attempted suicide
  • Persons abusing medicine, alcohol or other drugs
  • Relatives or close friends of people who have committed suicide
  • Older men and young girls

Other sources:

WHO: Preventing suicide, a global imperative.

Read more about SOS International’s healthcare services here

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Are you travelling and in need of acute assistance?

Contact SOS International's alarm centre on +45 7010 5050.

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