No one likes to think about suicide, much less talk about it, but the director of a local counseling center, says that’s the wrong approach.
Being willing to ask someone whether he or she is contemplating suicide might be a life-saving act, said Headquarters director Marcia Epstein.
Douglas County recorded an alarming 22 suicides through mid-December of 2010. That is double the number reported in the county in 2008 and 2009.
Discussing that increase, Epstein listed a number of signals that might indicate someone is at risk, including not showering or shaving for days, suddenly acting more aggressive than usual, sleeping all the time and being unwilling or unable to eat. Family, friends and co-workers also can look for signs of loss like the death of a friend or family member, the loss of a relationship or, in a younger person, even the loss of a dream like not making a sports team.
And, Epstein said, if someone seems to be seriously struggling with life and depression, don’t be afraid to ask, “Are you thinking about suicide?”
It’s a question many people would avoid because they were afraid of giving offense or planting an idea. However, Epstein said neither of those concerns should keep a person from asking the question. Rather than encouraging a person to consider suicide, the show of concern may open the door to a conversation and additional help that could turn such thoughts aside.
Suicide is a tragedy not only for the people who have died but also for their family and friends who wish they had been able to do something to change their minds. Raising the question of suicide may be uncomfortable, but it pales by comparison with the loss of a life to suicide.