Source: Deaf Counseling – Suicide What You Can Do, Borrowed on permission from the Deaf Counseling Center
Just this past week, our Deaf community faced the sad reality of two of our members ending their lives through suicide. These are just two, among far too many other suicides, that have occurred over the years. As many people know, suicide is a difficult topic to discuss, particularly when since it brings up a whole range of feelings, including guilt, sadness, anger, and fear.
Approximately 25% of the people who commit suicide never show any warning signs or share their despair with anyone. In these cases, people are often caught off guard and shocked. Without any warning signs, there is little we can do to help in these situations.
The other 75% of people who commit suicide do show warning signs that often become clear in retrospect. Lists of these warning signs can be found on the Internet. Signs include, but are not limited to, untreated chronic depression, erratic mood swings, increase in alcohol use, giving away prized possessions, and withdrawing from activities.
Occasionally, people who are having suicidal ideations openly state their desire to die to a friend or family member. When this happens, people are often at loss for how best to respond. If you face a situation where someone is hinting or clearly stating a suicidal wish, you should ask for more information. Encourage the person to talk more and offer your presence to listen.
Find out how serious the person’s intentions are. Is it just wishful thinking or is there an actual plan? When questioned if they mean what they are saying, many people will correct themselves by admitting they are just talking and clarify that they do not plan to do anything.
Asking outright if someone has actual plans for committing suicide often makes people hesitant. They worry that mere mention of the word “suicide” might give someone the idea of actually following through with it. In reality, if someone has already been thinking of it or has made plans to commit suicide, addressing the issue in a straightforward manner is not going to cause the suicide to happen.
If the person is unable to state that the suicidal talk is just that, or if the person gives vague answers about suicidal intentions, ask if there is a plan in place. If the plan involves overdosing on medications, ask if the person has the medications ready and what kind. If the person mentions plans to use a gun, find out if there is actually a gun available to use.
When there is a clear plan for suicide, don’t look the other way. Let the person know how concerned you are. Suggest talking with a therapist or seeking treatment at a hospital. Do not keep the information you have a secret, no matter if the person has asked you to do so. Even a therapist will break confidentiality when it comes to the point where a life is at stake.
If you find yourself in the situation where someone has clear and immediate plans to commit suicide, or even if your instincts are telling you things are serious, when the person denies it, take action. If the person will not go for help, alert family members or close friends. Let them know what is happening.
Do not spend the whole night worrying about whether or not the person is safe or sending one email after another in a desperate attempt to reach the person. Call 911 and give them the person’s address. Your local police can contact the police department in the suicidal person’s home area to send help.
Should you hesitate to call 911 out of fear of angering the person, please consider which of the two alternatives – anger or death – is worse. If the person is angry at first, chances are the anger will dissipate in time, when your concern and caring actions are recognized.
It is an unfortunate fact of life that for Deaf people today, there are very few accessible Deaf-friendly inpatient and outpatient treatment programs all across the country. This is an ongoing issue that we, as a community, need to continue addressing. Hopefully, more states will take inspiration from the 13 Deaf people in Missouri, who recently filed a lawsuit demanding improved mental health services in their state.
Our current imperfect mental health system, however, should not deter anyone from seeking help for a suicidal friend or family member. Although every single suicide cannot be prevented, and no one should assume the blame for the suicidal person’s actions, if you do have an opportunity to help someone who is considering suicide, please take the opportunity to do so.
To cite: Duchesneau, S. (2010). Suicide: What You Can Do. ASC on the Couch. Retrieved (date retrieved).