Registered social worker and Inkblot therapist Stephanie Bogue Kerr shares how to recognize the warning signs and offer support
It can be difficult, uncomfortable and even stressful to talk about suicide, especially when addressing concerns about suicidaility with those we love.
The pandemic has taken an enormous toll on our collective mental health – with strain reaching an all time high. With more and more people experiencing with stress, depression and in some cases thoughts of suicide, it’s important to learn how to support those who are struggling.
“The pandemic has really shone a light on whatever instability or insecurity people had in their lives before,” says Stephanie Bogue Kerr, a Registered Social Worker and therapist on the Inkblot platform. “Whatever mental health issues people were managing in their lives, pre-pandemic, have now been exacerbated.”
Bogue Kerr notes that while many of us may be afraid to do or say the wrong thing when we see someone who seems at risk, creating space for others to talk about their suicidal feelings can play an important role in prevention.
“We may see this struggle in our family and friends before anyone else,” says Bogue Kerr. “So we must remain open to having these conversations, to the best of our abilities. Everyone has a part to play.”
It can be difficult to know if our friends, coworkers or family members are thinking about suicide; but we can be mindful of the warning signs that make suicide more likely. According to Bogue Kerr, these signs can be both emotional and behavioural.
People who are contemplating suicide may express feelings of hopelessness. It may be more difficult for them to engage or find enjoyment in certain things they once found enjoyment in because of these feelings. “You may notice that they stop attending to things that used to be important to them,” says Bogue Kerr. “They might stop attending to their hygiene. There may be a certain level of neglect for these types of things.”
If your loved one is struggling to find meaning in their life, you may also see that they are finding it hard to connect with others. For those with suicidal thoughts, it is common to withdraw from social connections and to stop engaging with people as they had in the past. Changes in mood may also be a warning sign that someone is struggling with low mood and at risk. They may express feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, low self-esteem or self anger.
The actions of your loved one can also provide insight into their mental wellbeing and suicide risk. They may make jokes or talk an unusual amount about death and suicide. They may begin researching suicide and formulating a plan. Bogue Kerr mentions that individuals may start engaging in dangerous, high risk or self-harming behaviors. You may observe your loved one giving away meaningful items or writing letters; “there can be a general sense of figuring out how to tie things up,” says Bogue Kerr.
If you recognize any of these warning signs in your friends, coworkers or family, Bogue Kerr shares some advice on how to approach this difficult, but important conversation.
Talking about suicide can be uncomfortable and hard. But know that have a conversation with an individual about suicide is just one step in the prevention process. “This is something that we all may be uncomfortable talking about. But, being open to that discomfort is what will actually allow us to help those around us.” says Bogue Kerr. “Remember that you don’t have to know exactly what to say, just listen and connect them with someone who can pick it up from there.” If you or a loved one are experiencing thoughts of suicide, please reach out for professional help. In an emergency, call The Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566. For ongoing support working through difficult thoughts and feelings, connect with an Inkblot therapist today.