It’s no secret that modern society has a problem when it comes to talking about mental health.
We seldom hear about it from friends, on social media, or even in popular films or television. Naturally, there’s something of a stigma around the issue, and one person writing about it even simplified things further, suggesting that the reason we don’t talk about mental health is that people don’t want to complain (nor listen to a complainer).
This is a notion that’s bored deeply into many of our heads, such that we view mental health discussions as being somewhat taboo.
This is even more so with regard to suicide risk, though perhaps for different reasons. While we all like to think that we would do the right thing and speak up if we recognized such a risk in others, the truth is that it’s a very dramatic subject. It’s hard to know if what you’re seeing is the real thing, and without that confirmation, you might keep your mouth shut simply because you don’t want to meddle, or you don’t want to be wrong.
This is ultimately why it’s so important to learn to recognize suicide risks when we see them.
The first step is to recognize just how common this problem is.
Recently an article surfaced about PartyPoker organizing a charity tournament in order to draw attention to suicide risk and, tacitly, acknowledge the role of addictive activities in pushing some people to the edge. Within that article, it was revealed that a suicide is recorded every 40 seconds worldwide, as well as that the rate of suicides among 15- to 29-year-olds is on the rise. These are a few statistics that should open all of our eyes to how big a problem this truly is. It’s unsettling to think about, but if you believe you’ve never known someone who may have had suicidal thoughts, the odds are quite strong that you’re mistaken.
But even if you’re fully aware of how common this risk is, how can you actually recognize those who might be suffering, and who might need help but feel uneasy asking for it?
Unfortunately, there is no concrete method, and I am no psychologist or psychiatrist. That said, however, if this is something that concerns you, you can start by recognizing that other mental health issues can sometimes serve as gateways, so to speak, to suicidal thoughts.
For instance, it is known that people facing anxiety and depression – sometimes mistakenly viewed from the outside as minor issues, or illnesses that are easily dealt with – face an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. Thus, part of recognizing risk is properly associating its potential with other mental conditions, which can sometimes be easier to spot.
You can also educate yourself quite easily about the signs and symptoms of true suicide risk. This doesn’t make you any more an educated physician or mental health professional than I am, but it does teach you the difference between someone looking sad or angry and someone exhibiting truly worrisome signs or behaviour.
Particularly if you have friends or family members who have dealt with depression or anxiety or even bipolar disorder, you should spend time reading about signs to look for, how to gauge the situation, and when and how to approach the person.
It’s not a subject anyone wants to confront – but even recognizing and overcoming that fact represents progress. Just like with other mental health problems, it’s important to treat suicide risk as something that’s okay to talk about and address.