I recently met a new friend who was a police detective in the Major Crimes Division and Hostage/crisis negotiator. During our conversation, the subject of the rising rate of suicide among military personnel and veterans came up. We discussed ideas which could possibly help change these alarming statistics.
Incidentally, I live by an ethos which doesn’t allow me to “talk” about a problem unless I am willing to personally do something about it. Just saying…..
As a police negotiator Shawn was often called out to deal with an emergency with a suicidal person. Knowing how difficult it is to talk to someone considering such an act, I asked Shawn how he would approach the troubled person and what he would say to them. His response was amazing. He said, “I’d ask them: “Do you really want to die or do you just want the pain to go away”? 99% of them said they wanted the pain to stop.
Wow! They just want the pain to stop. Can you imagine what preceded such a moment? Most people, when they are in pain will take some measure to stop it before they even get to suicide. Medication, counseling, rehabilitation, surgery, etc. And in almost every situation there is a call for help by the one who is hurting. My questions then is, why is there so few willing to hear that call?
One of the things all suicides have in common is crisis. When a person takes their own life, it is in response to a crisis which they have deemed so painful that they are not able to live with it. These are the persons who are most vulnerable. These are the people who we must learn to hear. Some of the things we should look for are: Excessive sadness or moodiness: Long-lasting sadness, mood swings, and unexpected rage.
Hopelessness: Feeling a deep sense of hopelessness about the future, with little expectation that circumstances can improve.
Sudden calmness: Suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness can be a sign that the person has decided to end his or her life.
Withdrawal: Choosing to be alone and avoiding friends or social activities also are possible symptoms of depression, a leading cause of suicide. This includes the loss of interest or pleasure in activities the person previously enjoyed.
Changes in personality and/or appearance: A person who is considering suicide might exhibit a change in attitude or behavior, such as speaking or moving with unusual speed or slowness. In addition, the person might suddenly become less concerned about his or her personal appearance.
Dangerous or self-harmful behavior: Potentially dangerous behavior, such as reckless driving, and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol might indicate that the person no longer values his or her life.
Recent trauma or life crisis: A major life crises might trigger a suicide attempt. Crises include the death of a loved one or pet, divorce or break-up of a relationship, diagnosis of a major illness, loss of a job, or serious financial problems.
Making preparations: Often, a person considering suicide will begin to put his or her personal business in order. This might include visiting friends and family members, giving away personal possessions, making a will, and cleaning up his or her room or home. Some people will write a note before committing suicide. Some will buy a firearm or other means like poison. Threatening suicide: From 50% to 75% of those considering suicide will give someone — a friend or relative — a warning sign. However, not everyone who is considering suicide will say so, and not everyone who threatens suicide will follow through with it. Every threat of suicide should be taken seriously.
My goal in the writing of this blog is not just to educate, but to bring you to a moment of pause where you consider yourself part of the answer. No matter who you are, the ability to stop someone from taking their own life is within you.
Today, please accept the challenge to join me in the fight against this plague.
Mission Force is