One topic that is rarely discussed, although it plays a role in a counselling environment, is suicide. Various social, psychological, cultural and other reasons can lead to a person having suicidal thoughts and becoming suicidal. The stigma attached to psychological illness may prevent some suicidal persons from confiding in others with their problems. Since many suicides can be prevented with timely and appropriate help, we provide information here on how to recognise whether someone shows suicidal tendencies and how to help them. Because it's okay to talk openly about suicide. Talking about it does not in itself provoke suicide but often reduces anxiety and helps those affected to feel understood.
- Threatening to kill oneself.
- Saying things like: 'Nobody will miss me when I'm gone.'
- Searching for means to commit suicide on the internet, such as poisons/pesticides, weapons, medicine, or searching for ways or reasons to commit suicide.
- Saying goodbye to family and close friends, giving away valued possessions or writing a will.
- The following groups of persons are particularly at risk:
- People who have tried to take their own lives before.
- People with depression, alcohol or drug problems.
- People who find themselves in an emotionally difficult situation brought about, for example, by the loss of a loved one or a difficult relationship break-up.
- People suffering from a chronic illness and constant pain.
- People who have experienced violence, trauma, war, discrimination or abuse.
- People who are socially isolated.
Suicides are preventable if the people around the affected person watch for signs and interpret them correctly, because if someone is suicidal, that person often gives clues as to their state of mind. What you can do:
- Choose an appropriate time and quiet place to talk to the person you are worried about and make it clear that you are there for them and listening to them.
- Encourage the person to get help. A good first contact person is the GP ('Hausarzt').
- If someone is suicidal, i.e. has thoughts that revolve around suicide, the best contact person is a psychologist or psychiatrist. Offer to accompany them to the appointment.
- If the person already has specific suicide plans: accompany them to the hospital or to a psychiatric clinic with inpatient facilities.
- If you think the person is in acute danger, do not leave them alone and seek help, such as from a psychologist or psychiatrist.
- If you are suddenly unable to contact the person, call the police.
- If you live with the suicide-prone person, make sure that there are no dangerous objects in the house with which they could injure themselves.
- Stay in touch with the person to keep an eye on their condition.
If your thoughts revolve around self-harm or suicide, or if you hear this from an acquaintance, friend or family member, do not hesitate to get help. The Gesundheitsamt (health department) can help you.