Talking about or learning about prevention can be difficult for many of us who have lost a loved one to suicide. For some, learning about the warning signs gives us a 20/20 vision of how our loved one was acting or living before they died. It can also bring up thoughts we struggle with, like “if I had known,” “I should have seen this,” or the questions of “what if I had done more?” These thoughts and questions are a normal part of dealing with the grief associated with suicide loss. While it may be “normal,” that does not make it any less challenging to handle these thoughts. In time, many survivors realize that there was nothing they could have done to prevent the suicide. For others, many survivors learn to live with the unanswered questions, the “what ifs,” and learn to accept that what has happened cannot be changed.
For us survivors, many of us want to help with prevention so nobody else has to endure the pain that we’ve endured in losing a loved one to suicide.
One thing we can all do is to get educated about Warning Signs and Risk Factors. Do not be afraid to ask someone if they are thinking about suicide. Though, keep in mind that questions like “you are not thinking about harming yourself, are you?” is not the proper way to ask the question. Instead, asking: “Have you thought about ending your life?” If the answer is yes, help the person seek the help they need.
With this knowledge, maybe you can save a life — what a beautiful way to honor your loved one’s memory.
Here’s an Easy-to-Remember Mnemonic:
IS PATH WARM?
I – Ideation
S – Substance Abuse
P – Purposelessness
A – Anxiety
T – Trapped
H – Hopelessness
A – Anger
R – Recklessness
M – Mood Changes
A person in acute risk for suicidal behavior most often will show:
Warning Signs of Acute Risk:
These might be remembered as expressed or communicated Ideation. If observed, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-237- TALK (8255).
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