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How to Recognize Signs That Someone Is Contemplating Suicide


The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shelter-in-place orders that have been instituted in many communities have led to a marked increase in mental health issues among individuals and families.

The seclusion and lack of human interaction, along with concerns over what the future holds, have created a perfect storm for the spike in reported cases of mental health issues and thoughts of suicide.

According to the World Economic Forum, more than one in four adults have reported feeling depressed since the March 2020 onset of the pandemic, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the stress and pressure that many experience can be overwhelming, leading to marked increases in the number of people reporting mental health issues.

Recognize the Signs

The CDC has posted several signs that someone may be suffering from a significant mental health issue. They include:

  • Fear and worry about personal health and the health of family members, financial situations or loss of support service
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of tobacco and/or alcohol and other substances

Advocates are urging people to take these indicators seriously as they could lead to suicidal ideation and attempts at self-harm. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and many resources are available to help those who may be at risk.

Take the Next Steps

One of the first steps in prevention awareness is to spot the signs of an at-risk person. This checklist not only lists many of the warning signs, it also provides resources where you can find help for a family member or a friend who may be struggling. Some signs, such as talking about wanting to die or hurting oneself, are urgent signals in need of immediate intervention by calling 911 or other emergency services. Other signs, such as extreme hopelessness, need responses such as calling mental health professionals or hotlines.

Active listening and response are essential also. Make sure you are listening to what a person is saying and then ask whether they are considering self-harm. It may seem uncomfortable, but reaching out is a must when a person is suffering. Make sure you follow up with an at-risk person as well. Check on their well-being. Show concern.

Always practice self-care. Develop good routines such as getting enough sleep, reaching out and maintaining relationships with family and friends, eating healthy and making time for yourself. Work on your self-esteem, and help others work on theirs. Help others promptly address whatever emotional pain they feel.

Reach out to experts for help. Keep resources handy so that you can quickly call when you notice symptoms in a person you consider at risk. Then contact hotlines, mental health professionals and even trusted family members to get help quickly.

Find Out More 

This list of helpful links on the New Jersey State Funeral Directors Association website provides more resources for those seeking help for themselves or others. Make sure you share what you’ve learned with your family and friends.

For many, life has been tough since the beginning of the pandemic. By being aware and listening, you may end up being someone’s lifeline.