How can I tell if someone is at risk for suicide?

Do you know someone in your life who seems to be going through a rough time? Have you wondered if they are at risk for suicide?  Death is not a topic we typically like to talk about, but death by suicide is preventable and talking about it can save a life!

Do you remember playing the game “Getting Warmer, Getting Colder” as a kid? Someone would hide an object in the room and as the other person moved around the room you would tell them if they were “getting colder,” meaning they were not close to finding the hidden object, or you would say “getting warmer,” as they got closer? Take a minute to stop and look around the room of your life, are any of your friends or family members, “getting warmer” when it comes to being at risk for suicide? Is their path heating up with these risk factors?

One easy way to remember acute risk factors for suicide is the acronym: IS PATH WARM[1].

Ideation (of suicide) – having thoughts about killing yourself

Substance Abuse – increased use/abuse of alcohol or drugs  

Purposelessness – having no reason for living, feeling like life has no meaning or value, feeling like a burden

Anxiety – feeling agitated, irritable, sleeping too much, or not sleeping enough, insomnia

Trapped - feeling like there is no way out, feeling stuck, or helpless

Hopelessness – feeling like things will never get better, a sense of despair, overwhelming sense of inadequacy

Withdrawn – isolating from friends and family, making excuses to not attend social functions

Anger – rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

Recklessness – engaging in any risky or harmful activities with no thought about personal safety or consequences, repeatedly going “over the limit” in any activity

Mood Changes – dramatic shifts in mood. Intense anger, to deep sadness and crying, to feeling like you are on top of the world.

You or your loved one may not have all of these risk factors, but the more factors you have the more at risk you could be. 

Help cool down someone’s path, by taking these three simple steps:

1.     Ask, “Have things have gotten so bad that you are starting to think about killing yourself?”
Ask, “Do you have a plan, and any intentions of acting on that plan?”

2.     Listen, let them know you are there for them and want to hear about what is going on.

3.     Lock and Link: Help them secure means and access help. 

Locking up or letting someone else hold on to firearms, car keys, medications, or other objects the person has been contemplating using to kill themselves can help put a barrier in between them and their means. Slowing down access can help cool down an impulsive act and give others time to intervene.

Link up with local mental health supports:

National Suicide Life Line 800-273-8255

Denton County Crisis Hotline 800-762-0157

The outpatient mental health crisis center in Denton county is the Psychiatric Triage Center. It's open 24-7 for crisis assessment and intervention, and located at 2509 Scripture St. Ste. 100 Denton, TX 76201, 940-381-9965.

*If the situation is urgent, you suspect someone is currently in the process of carrying out a plan to kill themselves, call 911.

Carrie Breedlove MS, LPC, CRC Denton Community Health Clinic Counselor/Patient Care Coordinator

Carrie Breedlove MS, LPC, CRC
Denton Community Health Clinic
Counselor/Patient Care Coordinator


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Know the warning signs of suicide. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2016 from The American Association of Suicidology http://www.suicidology.org/resources/warning-signs