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  • Lemuel Tan

Suicidal Thoughts and Suicide Prevention

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, suicide is the leading cause of death among people aged 15-44 years old in Australia. There are a total of 3,046 registered deaths in 2018. Some professionals have suggested the figures to be higher as it is impossible to identify those who have passed away by other means, example: car crashes, missing individuals, substance misuse, etc. Suicide rates have been increasing over the years with the data suggesting that males are more likely to be successful to complete suicide than females.

Hearing about suicide and such statistics can cause alarm and fear. For others it may be emotionally triggering. In fact, one of my jobs is to explore the idea of suicide and how it makes the person feel. Many times people are afraid to talk about suicide as they are afraid that they may be locked up in hospital against their will or be put on ‘suicide watch’.

Suicide is different from self-harm. The purpose and function of self-harming is usually done to avoid suicidal impulses while suicidal attempts are usually done with an intention to die. Some have reasoned that if there was no self-harm mechanism, as a form of coping with the distress, we would have higher levels of suicide around the world.

Suicidal Thoughts

Having suicidal thoughts does not mean that a person wants to die. Those struggling with suicidal thoughts sincerely want to feel better but do not necessary know how or what to do and feel stuck. In fact, some find having suicidal thoughts comforting as it provides them with some level of control as it acts as a release valve from the distress, hopelessness and helplessness. Some average healthy individuals may even have vague suicidal thoughts with no particular wish to die. This are in fact normal and people do have these thoughts from time to time as a coping mechanism to deal with the stresses of life. However, having a specific plan and intent of suicide is usually a sign that the individual is in significant distress. It would be strongly recommended that the individual seeks appropriate professional help.

Some warning signs and signs of risk for suicide include:

- Hopelessness – There is no hope or future.

- Helplessness – There is no way or perceived lack of a way to obtain help and support.

- Feeling isolated – You are better off alone.

- Self-hatred and loathing – You hate yourself.

- Burdening/troubling others – You feel like a burden to your family & friends.

- Previous attempts of suicide.

- Increased anxiety and agitation.

- Increased substance use – both illicit and non-illicit.

- Poor sleep or insomnia.

- Poor diet or rapid change in weight.

- Worsening personal hygiene.

- Sudden mood change.

- Removing yourself from friends & family.

- Increased risk taking behaviours.

- Loss of interest in favourite activities.

- Giving away possessions.

- Regularly talking about death or wanting to die.

People who are in extreme distress and suicidal often see things in black and white with very little shades of gray or colour.

Below are some common myths and facts about suicide:

Myth : Suicide only affects individuals with a mental health condition. Fact : Many individuals who have a mental illness do not have suicidal thoughts. In fact, not all people who attempted suicide or died by suicide have a mental illness. Life stressors such as a relationship problems, family problems, financial problems, criminal matters, homeless, abuse, neglect, work places problems, life crises are known to be triggers for suicide. Suicide can affect anyone.

Myth: Talking about suicide will lead and encouraged suicide. Fact: Talking about suicide will not increase the chances of suicide. In fact, ignoring it or avoiding the conversation may make it worse. People often ignore or avoid the conversation because they fear they may say the wrong thing or not be able to support the person. Listening to their story and journeying together in the pain is usually more helpful that solution finding. Just listening reminds them that someone cares for them, they are not alone and there is some hope (even though we may not have all the solutions). It is important not to invalidate the suicidal thoughts and feelings, for example: Oh! You are just wanting my attention. Be empathetic and reflect on those thoughts, for example: “Those thoughts that you mention are so distressing, you must have gone through a lot to be in this state of mind”.

Myth: People who talk about death and suicide only want attention. Fact: People who talk about suicide do not want attention but are seeking help. In fact the Suicide Prevention Australia ( found that only a small proportion of suicide attempters seek formal help. This is usually related to the stigma of suicide. Remember that some may already hate themselves and feel like they are a burden to others.

Myth: People who are suicidal are determined to die. Fact: People who are suicidal want to live but are struggling to find the motivation to live. They often feel overwhelmed by distress and want the distress to end and not usually their lives. Often times they feel that ending their own life is the only way to stop the distress. It is more about the distress and the feeling of being stuck in the distress than it is about ending life itself.

Seek help – Your life is worth it!

If you are reading this and feel that you hate yourself and feel like there is nothing you or anyone can do to make things better, remember that you are of worth it and that your life is important and sacred. Hurting people are all around us. The sense of ending it all may feel like an intense urge luring you away from hope and recovery. Remember that no one really knows what the future holds, both good or bad, but when a life is taken, it can never be undone.

If you are reading this and feel that you are suicidal, please seek help. Remember that you are of value even though you may not feel it or believe it.

- Contact 000 and request for an ambulance. You are not alone.

- Sometimes talking and sharing about your problems can help ease the immediate distress:

o Lifeline - 13 11 14

o Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467

o Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636

o Kid’s Helpline - 1800 55 1800 (18-25 years old)

o MensLine Australia — 1300 78 99 78

Disclaimer: The material on this blog is not to be used by any commercial or personal entity without expressed written consent of the blog's author. The article above is an opinion of an individual clinician and should not be taken as full clinical advice. The statements on this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any mental health or mental illnesses. Always consult your doctor for medical advice or seek professional therapy.

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