Suicide is not something a person usually wants to sit down and chat about. The word, never mind the action, has even more stigma attached than depression. Yet suicide remains the number one threat to the self in depression. That's why talking about suicide is as important as any health issue.
In the United States, suicide rates are highest in spring. Statistically 90 per cent of suicides are the direct result of depression or substance abuse. Women are 3-4 times more likely to attempt suicide. Men are three times more likely to commit suicide. Suicide is not limited to any age group. It happens in young children and elderly people. Everyone is susceptible to depression. Suicide is difficult to talk about at any age but it should always be taken seriously.
If you're worried your loved one is thinking about suicide, the most important thing you can do is talk to the person. Talking won't make a person suicidal! Ask your loved one directly if he/she is thinking about suicide. Yes you might get a lie, but you'll be able to determine if there is a plan or thoughts of suicide.
If there is a plan for suicide, keep calm. If the danger is imminent, phone emergency or a crisis hot line right away. Stay with your loved one while making the call. You're not betraying or shaming your loved one. You are saving his/her life.
Talk. If the depressed person isn't on the verge of committing suicide but has been thinking about it you need to talk. Never promise to keep a plan for suicide secret! Losing a life is more important than losing a friendship or getting someone angry.
Don't judge. Take your loved one seriously and listen without being judgemental. Let your loved one talk as long as he/she wants to. There is no time limit. You might hear the same theme repeatedly in different ways. Listen. Don't minimize problems or dismiss them.
Keep your word. Don't make promises you can't keep or don't intend to keep. False hope is worse than hearing the truth.
Stay calm. Being calm is one of the strongest attributes you'll need. While you consider life valuable and worthwhile, your depressed love one perceives the world differently. It's nothing personal so don't get offended or upset with the ideas you hear.
If you're loved one is considering suicide, ask if you can accompany him/her to the doctor and then tell the doctor. Build social support networks that include family, friends and co-workers. There's no shame in others finding out. Keep crisis hotline phone numbers handy for everyone in the support network. Let others know about sudden mood or behaviour changes.
Suicidal feelings are usually temporary and it is treatable. The concern in depression is the frequency of suicidal thoughts. A person might have the strength to fight it for a while. If the feelings of hopelessness and despair persist and deepen, then one can easily get so lost in the darkness that it feels like nothing can help get you out. You don't see past the moment, the steps or choices still available, and the light of love from people who care about you. You become silent.
Sometimes, despite the best efforts of everyone including the depressed person, there is a suicide. More than half of adult suicides seek help within six months preceding their deaths and visit a professional doctor within one month of death. The impulse to commit suicide can waver until the last moment.
My experience with attempted suicide made me realize that most people don't see the warning signs or think you are depressed enough to attempt suicide. I had friends who told me I was stronger than depression and that I could get through it. Emotionally and mentally I was a wreck, but somehow my outward manner presented me otherwise to the world. When you're depressed, your emotional highs and lows are pretty much the same -- very low. It was difficult for others to judge how depressed I actually was because they mislabelled my depression as only sadness. People could see I was damaged but as long as I seemed capable of functioning and enjoying life there was no reason to be concerned about a suicide attempt.
So I never talked about wanting to commit suicide. I felt like no one wanted to hear me say suicide. It shocked and horrified them when I loosely brought up the subject. Some people even thought I was trying to grab the spotlight by having everyone worry about me.
Depressed people hide their emotions very well. We learn to create masks. We wear one for family, another for friends and another for colleagues. We adapt to saying what we think people want to hear. We keep our pain concealed beneath false smiles and empty laughter. When we are alone our pain roars and torments, lying that death is the only way out of the pain.
IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW ARE HAVING THOUGHTS ABOUT SUICIDE, CALL 1.800.273.TALK (8255) IN BOTH U.S. AND CANADA
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