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Do you need to ask the question?


            One of the most difficult things you will ever do is ask a friend, a loved one, your life partner, “Are you considering suicide?” You think he or she might be. She seems distant, isolated, brooding, but you have no idea why. He won’t talk about whatever is bothering him. There is something you need to know: You may think that person will come and talk to you when they really need someone to listen, but they may not talk to you. They don’t want to be a burden. They are failing in so many ways, at least from their own perspective. They hold everything inside, perhaps fearing that it is another failure because they just can’t suck up whatever is wrong and deal with it. There may be reasons you cannot begin to speculate.

            A woman was raised attending church. She had some health issues that disabled her enough to need to use a cane. She worked a job, but it did not pay enough for her to live. It came out that she was on the verge of suicide because she was failing to take care of her own basic needs. Her loving and supportive family was there for her. Her church family gave her support and encouragement. And her employer gave her a raise in salary. She was past the crisis.

            A man had seen job loss coming, the handwriting on the wall, so to speak, and slid into depression. He had a wife and a couple of small children to provide for, and when the ax fell and his job was gone, despair settled in. He shut out his wife, distanced himself from everyone. Friends approached his wife with concerns about suicidal thoughts. He seemed not to hear them when they spoke to him. He was lost in his thoughts.

            The wife had been so sure that he understood this was only a temporary setback. They had their lives ahead of them and would get back on their financial feet. They had healthy children, they were healthy and they had each other. They had what was most important. But she was afraid to ignore the friends who had spoke to her of their concerns. She had handled many crises in her life, but suicide was not one of them. She called the Suicide Hotline.

            She was advised to get her husband to talk about the suicidal thoughts. But how was she to do that? If he hadn’t already thought of it, she certainly didn’t want to give him the idea. Terror ate at her inside. But it was brought up, and with it other problems, and somehow they survived the crisis.  But she lived in fear that something would happen again, like when he said he was going to get a hefty insurance policy on his life, like when he began to give away things that she knew he had once treasured, like when his barriers went up and he refused to talk to her.

            In 2016 in the United States, there were 45,000 suicides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than half of them did not have a known mental health condition. What causes suicides? Problems related to relationships, substance use, physical health, employment, money, legal matters and housing stress are listed. But there can be other reasons, too. More men than women commit suicide.

Everyone needs to know the warning signs:

  • Feeling like a burden.
  • Being isolated.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Feeling traped or in unbearable pain.
  • Increased substance use.
  • Looking for a way to access lethal means.
  • Increased anger or rage.
  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Expressing hopelessness.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Talking or posting about wanting to die.
  • Making plans for suicide.

There are five steps to helping someone at risk: 1.) Ask if they are considering suicide. 2.) Keep them safe. 3.) Be there. 4.) Help them connect. 5.) Follow up. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7. You can talk to someone at 1-800-273-8255 or chat at

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