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Signs of suicidal behaviour


•   Increased alcohol or drug consumption.
 •   Disinterest in possessions - giving away prized belongings.
 •   Withdrawing from friends and social involvement.
 •   Sleeping pattern changes - may have difficulties in getting off to sleep;
 have interrupted sleep; early morning awakening; feeling tired after sleep; sleeping too much.
 •   Self-mutilation behaviour, eg cutting/gouging.
 •   Sudden and striking personality changes and mood-changes.
 •   Risk-taking and careless behaviour.
 •   Sudden happiness after a prolonged period of depression.
 •   Apathy. May stay indoors, stare at the tv. Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities.
 •   Repetitive medical conditions - feeling nauseous, frequent headaches,injuries.
 •   Death or suicide themes dominate written, artistic, musical or creative work.
 •   Unrealistic expectations of self.
 •   Excessive promiscuousness, or loss of interest in sex.
 •   Overly dependent, clinging behaviour.
 •   Changes in eating patterns - not eating, over-eating, changes in weight.
 •   Verbal expression of suicidal intent or depression.
               -Direct statements,for example, "I wish I was dead!", "I'm going to end it all."
               - Indirect statements such as, "No-one cares if I'm dead or alive", "Does it hurt to die?"


Pattern of suicidal behaviour

There are five aspects of suicidal behaviour:
  1)     Suicidal thoughts. A person doesn't become actively suicidal suddenly - the process is an accelerating one. A person begins by thinking, "It would be better if I wasn't around." Never ignore what may be a message of a suicidal thought. The person needs to be listened to and taken seriously.
  2)     Suicidal threats. This is anything that a person says or does that indicates intent to self-harm. Suicidal threats are sometimes not recognised and can be overlooked. All threats should be taken seriously.
  3)     Suicidal gestures.
These are generally regarded as extreme forms of communication calling attention to the person's plight. They can involve physical injury to oneself or others, or reckless behaviour like overdosing, alcohol abuse, dangerous driving. All are indicators of emotional distress and a cry for help. Not all such gestures, however, can be interpreted as suicidal.
  4)     Attempted suicides. Attempted suicide is a serious and potentially lethal event. It can leave the person emotionally and/or physically devastated, possibly for the rest of their life.
  5)     Suicidal death.


Helping in a suicidal crisis

Most people who have died by suicide have done so when they have been alone.
The risk of suicide is greatly increased if the person has been drinking, is alone, and has ready access to the means.
In this state, the person may act impulsively. Here are things to do in a suicidal crisis:
  •     Assess if the person is at risk of suicide.
  •     If the situation is life-threatening or dangerous, call 999 for emergency services or take the person to a hospital emergency department.
  •     If help has been called, stay with the person until help arrives.
  •     If emergency services are not needed, encourage or assist the person to get appropriate professional help.
  •     Encourage the person to talk - listen without judgement. Be polite and respectful.
  •     If the person is consuming alcohol or drugs, try to prevent them from taking any more.
  •     Try to ensure the person does not have easy access to some means to take their life.
  •     Give reassurance about the short-term nature of feeling suicidal.

Six main types of depression:

  1.     Reactive Depression: is a reaction to a significant loss or life event.
  2.     Endogenous Depression: is internally caused when there is a drop in the body’s natural Seratonin chemical levels. No external factor or mood plays a role here.
  3.     Secondary Depression: where a depressive episode is secondary to another psychiatric illness. Eg. Phobic states.
  4.     Nuerotic Depression: can occur when someone has poor coping skills and is faced with a life-event. This is very common and occurs where people have a poor self-image.
  5.     Manic Depression: is where the person’s mood alternates between depression and elation.
  6.     Seasonal Adjustment Depression (S.A.D.): with people who suffer from this, depression is common in winter and mania in summer.

Useful websites

Mental Health Ireland: www.mentalhealthireland.ie- promotes positive mental health and actively supports people with a mental illness, their families and carers by dentifying their needs and advocating their rights.
Department of Health and Children: www.dohc.ie - Provides information about the government health services available in Ireland.
Oasis: www.citizensinformation.ie - Provides links to sites public service information for Ireland, including everything from dealing with bereavement to social welfare entitlements. It is readable in five languages – English, Irish, Polish, Romanian and French.
www.suicideprevention.ie is a voluntary project by Irish doctors this sites is a joint initiative of Suicide Prevention Ltd (a group of Irish doctors and other professionals), and ElectricAid, a corporate social welfare initiative of the ESB (see below for more details).
www.depression.ie This site offers a huge amount of easily understood information on Depression.
The site is offered as an information service for those with thoughts of self-harm or suicide, and for those who know them (which could therefore be seen to involve almost everybody in Ireland, just like in any other country !)
www.nosp.ie National Office of Suicide Prevention
The NOSP works closely with the HSE Resource Officers for Suicide Prevention
NOSP's functions are to oversee the implementation of 'Reach Out' the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention, Co-ordinate suicide prevention efforts around the country, and Speak regularly with agencies and individuals interested and active in suicide prevention.
www.suicideorsurvive.ie Suicide or Survive Ltd (SOS) provides services and supports aimed at suicide prevention in Ireland.
www.aware.ie Aware is a voluntary organisation formed in 1985 by a group of interested patients, relatives and mental health professionals, whose aims are to assist that section of the population whoses lives are directly affected by depression.

Websites for young people

www.reachout.com.au - a site that helps young people through touch times.
www.youth.ie - A site that focuses on youth in Ireland today.

Seeking funding

    Ireland has the second highest rate of youth suicide among 30 developed states (according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and limited resources are available to communities in Ireland seeking to cope with suicide.
    Visit the National Office for Suicide Prevention on www.nosp.ie for information including contact details for crisis support and links to other useful web sites. The NOSP’s funding was frozen at €4.5 million in 2008 amid an outcry from politicians and advocacy groups concerned about suicide prevention. You are advised to contact the organisation to see if funding is available to community groups.
    Meanwhile, the ESB’s Electric Aid Programme Fund identifies suicide, along with homelessness, as funding priorities and over €1 million has been dispersed from this fund. More info: www.esb.ie
    Also helpful is the National Suicide Research Foundation, based in Cork. It is an official research unit to contribute to the prevention of suicidal behaviour in Ireland. Highly regarded; it is the Irish focal point for information regarding suicide and its prevention by the World Health Organisation. Check it out on: www.nsrf.ie

More suicides than road 'accidents'

There are now more deaths in Ireland from suicide than from road accidents. The figures were skewed for years, in any case, because at least some of the 'accidents' are actually suicides.

Aware! run 60 local support groups

Aware is a voluntary organisation formed in ’85 by a group of interested patients, relatives and mental health professionals. Support group meetings are held in 60 locations in Ireland.
Aware Defeat Depression, 72 Lower Leeson St., Dublin 2. Tel. 01-661-7211.
E-mail: aware@iol.ie Website: www.aware.ie Counselling service (24 hours, 7 days a week): 01-6766166.

Samaritans 24-hour support

The Samaritans provides 24-hour emotional support to anyone experiencing distress, despair or suicidal thought. Established in Ireland in 1962, there are now 20 Samaritans branches across the island of Ireland with almost 2,000 active volunteers. In 2007, Samaritans supported over 315,000 dialogue contacts. The helpline in the Republic of Ireland dial 1850 60 90 90. To call from Northern Ireland dial 08457 90 90 90.
If you are interested in volunteering, call 1890 200 091 (ROI) or 08705 62 72 82 (NI).
More info: www.samaritans.ie

A model of good practice: ‘Choose Life!’

Communities should also look into Scotland's internationally-recognised 'Choose Life!' programme and its education and awareness-raising campaign 'See Me'. More than 600 people took their own lives in Scotland last year (around 450 of them men) but this was down 76 on the previous year.
Officers, trained to deal with suicide intervention, have been employed by every local authority in Scotland and the World Health Organisation has applauded Scotland's approach to destigmatising suicide and promoting mental health.
More info at: www.chooselife.net

Praised by Samaritans on our suicide-prevention coverage

(These tips on suicide prevention were published in print form in previous issues of ‘Changing Ireland’ and won recognition from the Samaritans for our “frank” approach to the issue. For further information and case-study examples of what Community Development Projects have done to prevent suicides, see our Archives, particularly Issue 15 and Issue 16
Note: The information published here was updated as of August 2008.


North Clondalkin CDP helped with these resource tips

Many of the tips on this page came to us through North Clondalkin CDP whose local ‘Buzz’ magazine highlighted the fact that there were seven deaths in the community from suicide in 2005 and gave pointers for how people could help out in a suicide crisis.
North Clondalkin CDP also helped set up a 'Community Action on Suicide' group.
The tips originally came from Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand (SPINZ) which is a non-governmental organisation.
For, more information, check out: www.spinz.org.nz