Trigger Warning: Information on suicide and death
When someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it can be hard to know what to do. For something so important, it can feel overwhelming and also sensitive – you want to show you care but you don’t want to overstep.
In brief, “there are several warning signs that a friend or loved one may be contemplating suicide,” says Dr Jared Ng, senior consultant and chief of the Institute of Mental Health’s (IMH) Department of Emergency and Crisis Care.
Dr. Ng lists texting or posting on social media about how they cannot go on living or no longer want to live, or suddenly posting photos of people on high-rise buildings as signs. The person contemplating suicide may also start writing and giving out goodbye letters, or giving away their treasured possessions.
“Who is able to watch out for these kinds of warning signs and intervene? It is really the family and loved ones,” he added, while speaking at a webinar series on mental health organised by IMH and the Temasek Foundation.
His fellow speaker, Dr Patanon Kwansanit from the Somdet Chaopraya Institute of Psychiatry in Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health, said people without any professional training can still help their suicidal friends and loved ones by simply responding as laymen.
“Show you care, show empathy, don’t (worry) too much about whether you’re good enough to be a good listener… and then suggest your friend get proper help or treatment,” he said.
Agreeing, Dr Ng added that if the situation is urgent – for instance, if the suicidal friend is already on the ledge – the police should be called as they can intervene quickly and take the suicidal individual to an appropriate agency for help.
Dr Ng, as well as Associate Professor Daniel Fung, chief executive of IMH, who was moderating the session, said that more efforts are needed to address gaps in the suicide prevention landscape here.
- mental health