Suicide prevention: Recognizing the warning signs can save lives

‘People want to talk about these things’

There is a renewed focus on depression and mental health in the wake of the death of Naomi Judd.

“I’m a loss survivor myself. So I’ve lost two family members to suicide and I can tell you that what the messaging is really important right now,” Hegira Health Clinical Director Melissa Tolstyka said.

Hegira Health serves 20,000 clients every year.

“If a person is thinking about suicide, they’ll let you know, they’ll tell you if you ask that question,” Tolstyka said.

Tolstyka said recognizing the warning signs can save lives. Verbal clues can be direct or indirect, like someone saying, “I don’t want to be here.”

Behavioral signs can include withdrawal, isolating and losing interest in hobbies. Situational examples could be someone getting fired from their job or expelled from school.

“I’ve seen that a lot more, that people want to talk about these things that we didn’t want to talk about before,” Kelly Mays said.

Kelly Mays is a licensed child therapist. She said she is seeing a troubling rise in depression and anxiety, especially among young people.

She said if you’re worried about a loved one, there’s a three-step method to try:

  • Question: Don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Persuade: Suggest calling together.
  • Refer: Know the referral sources in your community.

“Most people who want to die or who think about death or who think about suicide, they don’t want to die. They don’t want to live. They’re just are in pain and they want that pain to go away,” Mays said.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with suicidal thoughts you are not alone. Help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 to provide support at 800-273-8255. Click here to find crisis lines near you.

Recognizing the warning signs

There are some common warning signs that can help you determine if someone you love is at risk for suicide. Someone may be at risk if they are:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, like searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Extreme mood swings

About the Authors:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.