September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day, a time when suicide survivors, volunteers, and healthcare providers work to raise awareness about how to prevent suicides.
You see, every year about 1 million people take their own lives, often leaving the people around them emotionally devastated and shocked because they didn’t see it coming. All too often, people can miss the signs, or if they do suspect someone is contemplating suicide, they aren’t sure what to do about it.
So how can you tell if someone is at risk of suicide and what should you say? First, straight out ask them if they are thinking about taking their life, says Kenneth Robbins, MD, psychiatrist, University of Washington.
“It’s important to ask not just a general question, but actually start to dig down a little bit and try to understand how serious these thoughts might be,” says Dr. Robbins. Ask them if they have a plan and if so, try to get as many details as you can about their plan, he recommends. Once you know the details, take steps to remove the means, such as a gun.
“If someone is thinking about using a firearm, the firearm is removed,” says Dr. Robbins.
Women attempt suicide much more often than men, but men are more likely to die of suicide, mostly because they tend to use firearms, which are more likely to be lethal, says Dr. Robbins.
At this point it’s important to get help, he says. “It’s really critical to have mental health professionals working with you.”