What to Do When You Fear Someone May Take Their Life (via AFSP)

When You Fear Someone May Take Their Life

Most suicidal individuals give some warning of their intentions. The most effective way to prevent a friend or loved one from taking his or her life is to recognize the factors that put people at risk for suicide, take warning signs seriously and know how to respond.

Know the Facts


More than 90 percent of people who kill themselves are suffering from one or more psychiatric disorders, in particular:

Depression and the other mental disorders that may lead to suicide are — in most cases — both recognizable and treatable. Remember, depression can be lethal.

The core symptoms of major depression are a “down” or depressed mood most of the day or a loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyed for at least two weeks, as well as:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns

  • Change in appetite or weight

  • Intense anxiety, agitation, restlessness or being slowed down

  • Fatigue or loss of energy

  • Decreased concentration, indecisiveness or poorer memory

  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, self-reproach or excessive or inappropriate guilt

  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide


Between 25 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide. Those who have made suicide attempts are at higher risk for actually taking their own lives.

Availability of means

  • In the presence of depression and other risk factors, ready access to guns and other weapons, medications or other methods of self-harm increases suicide risk.

Recognize the Imminent Dangers

The signs that most directly warn of suicide include:

  • Threatening to hurt or kill oneself

  • Looking for ways to kill oneself (weapons, pills or other means)

  • Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide

  • Has made plans or preparations for a potentially serious attempt

Other warning signs include expressions or other indications of certain intense feelings in addition to depression, in particular:

  • Insomnia

  • Intense anxiety, usually exhibited as psychic

  • pain or internal tension, as well as panic attacks

  • Feeling desperate or trapped — like there’s no way out

  • Feeling hopeless

  • Feeling there’s no reason or purpose to live

  • Rage or anger

Certain behaviors can also serve as warning signs, particularly when they are not characteristic of the person’s normal behavior. These include:

  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities

  • Engaging in violent or self-destructive behavior

  • Increasing alcohol or drug use

  • Withdrawing from friends or family

Take it Seriously

  • Fifty to 75 percent of all suicides give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member.

  • Imminent signs must be taken seriously.

Be Willing to Listen

  • Start by telling the person you are concerned and give him/her examples.

  • If he/she is depressed, don’t be afraid to ask whether he/she is considering suicide, or if he/she has a particular plan or method in mind.

  • Ask if they have a therapist and are taking medication.

  • Do not attempt to argue someone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary and that depression can be treated. Avoid the temptation to say, “You have so much to live for,” or “Your suicide will hurt your family.”

A hug can do so much for someone that's hurting

A hug can do so much for someone that's hurting

Seek Professional Help

  • Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a physician or mental health professional immediately.

  • Individuals contemplating suicide often don’t believe they can be helped, so you may have to do more.

  • Help the person find a knowledgeable mental health professional or a reputable treatment facility, and take them to the treatment.

In an Acute Crisis

  • If a friend or loved one is threatening, talking about or making plans for suicide, these are signs of an acute crisis.

  • Do not leave the person alone.

  • Remove from the vicinity any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used for suicide.

  • Take the person to an emergency room or walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital.

  • If a psychiatric facility is unavailable, go to your nearest hospital or clinic.

  • If the above options are unavailable, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Follow-up on Treatment

  • Suicidal individuals are often hesitant to seek help and may need your continuing support to pursue treatment after an initial contact.

  • If medication is prescribed, make sure your friend or loved one is taking it exactly as prescribed. Be aware of possible side effects and be sure to notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. Usually, alternative medications can be prescribed.

  • Frequently the first medication doesn’t work. It takes time and persistence to find the right medication(s) and therapist for the individual person.

For more information, visit http://www.afsp.org


Japanese man streams his suicide ‘live’ online and nobody came to help him.

Commonwealth: Analog Chat Room

Image by tima via Flickr

A 24-year-old young man who recently had problems with his banking job reached out to an on-line community chat room, complaining about life and work problems, until ultimately confiding that he wanted to kill himself.  The audience from UStream, a website that allows users to stream their videos live, sent him mixed messages as he threatened to follow through last Sunday. While some users tried to help by sending him messages to not follow through with his plan, others actually dared him to do it, sending foul comments such as, “Die now” and “Please die quickly”.  By the time authorities showed up at his Sendai apartment the following Tuesday morning at 8am, it was too late. After his first failed attempt to hang himself with a twisted sheet off the balcony of his apartment at 4 am, the footage showed him succeeding the act at a different site less than 2 hours later.

While I admit to being a big fan of new media and social media technologies, this story absolutely horrifies me. Why weren’t any authorities, hospitals or professional experts notified? With over 2,000,000 million registered users on UStream, how did so much time pass without any intervention from the site’s administrators?  Unbelievably, the footage briefly made it to youtube before it was removed at the final hour. In response to the footage revealing his second attempt while still streaming live, the Japanese newspaper, Sankei Shimbun stated, “We guess his live feed was not that live any more and there was no longer anything to see.”

Normally, I leave my posts fairly unbiased, letting the news speak for itself. However, this is a story that I feel compelled to throw in my two cents. This kind of behavior on behalf of the many participants who could have stopped this is indicative of how much work is needed for suicide awareness and prevention. While I recognize that some people did ask him not to follow through with his death wish, I don’t understand how they didn’t report it to anyone. Website owners need to take responsibility for their content. More importantly, people need to own responsibility for helping one another. To sit by idly and let a young life end so tragically is unacceptable. If we learned anything from this tragic death, it’s that we need more education on how to help people in need of emotional and mental health.

Finally, I must admit that of all the articles I have seen about this story, most seem to come across as food fodder; merely another gossip article to generate more hits. What about his family? His friends? My heart goes out to the loss of this young man and his cries for help. There’s an adage that I live by: If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Suicide rates in Japan have been the highest among developed countries and the fourth highest in the world. One of the major factors to this number has been attributed to economic distress. Suicide is now the leading cause of death among men aged 20-44 and women aged 15-34 in Japan. Befrienders Worldwide, run by the Samaritans, provides a network of helplines in 39 countries including Japan. The Samaritans can be contacted in the UK 24 hours a day on 08457 909 090.

“The hottest place in hell remains for people who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.” Dr. Martin Luther King

AFSP’s “Out of the Darkness Walks”

I’ll be joining the Peekskill Rotary’s 40th Annual Horse show on behalf of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s chapter of Westchester.  They’ll be promoting their 7th annual “out of the Darkness Walk” at Croton Point Park on October 3rd. If anyone is interested in attending or learning more about the Westchester chapter, you can find information here:AFSP Westchester

AFSP also has a site that will bring you to walks and events all over the country. These walks help to promote advocacy in suicide prevention and awareness. By participating, we are helping to save lives. Wether you have lost a loved one to suicide, have considered it yourself, or want to help AFSP in their quest to help others, this is a wonderful activity to participate in. For more information or to find a walk in your community: Out of the Darkness

Suicide Help for Families


When a family member commits suicide, the entire family is plunged into confusion and grief. Life is instinctually valued by all of life’s creatures. Even a blade of grass or flower fights for the privilege of life. When someone close to you voluntarily ends their lives, your entire value system is thrown into question. Family members may also be consumed with guilt, thinking that they somehow should have seen the signs that led to the individuals suicide. Group therapy with others who have experienced this trauma as well individual therapy may be necessary to help cope.

Suicide by Family Friend Poems

The Mourner’s Bill of Rights

The Mourner’s Bill of Rights
By Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D.

“Though you should reach out to others as you do the work of mourning, you should not feel obligated to accept the unhelpful responses you may receive from some people. You are the one who is grieving, and as such, you have certain “rights” no one should try to take away from you. The following list is intended both to empower you to heal and to decide how others can and cannot help. This is not to discourage you from reaching out to others for help, but rather to assist you in distinguishing useful responses from hurtful ones.”

1. You have the right to experience your own unique grief. No one else will grieve in exactly the same way you do. So, when you turn to others for help, don’t allow them to tell what you should or should not be feeling.

2. You have the right to talk about your grief. Talking about your grief will help you heal. Seek out others who will allow you to talk as much as you want, as often as you want, about your grief. If at times you don’t feel like talking, you also have the right to be silent.

3. You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions. Confusion, disorientation, fear, guilt and relief are just a few of the emotions you might feel as part of your grief journey. Others may try to tell you that feeling angry, for example, is wrong. Don’t take these judgmental responses to heart. Instead, find listeners who will accept your feelings without condition.

4. You have the right to be tolerant of your physical and emotional limits. Your feelings of loss and sadness will probably leave you feeling fatigued. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Get daily rest. Eat balanced meals. And don’t allow others to push you into doing things

5. You have the right to experience “grief bursts.” Sometimes, out of nowhere, a powerful surge of grief may overcome you. This can be frightening, but is normal and natural. Find someone who understands and will let you talk it out.

6. You have the right to make use of ritual. The funeral ritual does more than acknowledge the death of someone loved. It helps provide you with the support of caring people. More importantly, the funeral is a way for you to mourn. If others tell you the funeral or other healing rituals such as these are silly or unnecessary, don’t listen.

7. You have the right to embrace your spirituality. If faith is a part of your life, express it in ways that seem appropriate to you. Allow yourself to be around people who understand and support your religious beliefs. If you feel angry at God, find someone to talk with who won’t be critical of your feelings of hurt and abandonment.

8. You have the right to search for meaning. You may find yourself asking, “Why did he or she die? Why this way? Why now?” Some of your questions may have answers, but some may not. And watch out for the clichéd responses some people may give you. Comments like, “It was God’s will” or “Think of what you have to be thankful for” are not helpful and you do not have to accept them.

9. You have the right to right to treasure your memories. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. You will always remember. Instead of ignoring your memories, find others with whom you can share them.

10. You have the right to move toward your grief and heal. Reconciling your grief will not happen quickly. Remember, grief is a process, not an event. Be patient and tolerant with yourself and avoid people who are impatient and intolerant with you. Neither you nor those around you must forget that the death of someone loved changes your life forever.

“Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., C.T. is an internationally noted author, educator and grief counselor. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and is on the faculty at the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine. Dr. Alan Wolfelt is known around the world for his compassionate messages of hope and healing in grief. http://www.centerforloss.com”
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