A Few Basic Facts (Part III)

Let’s demystify the process. Here are a few basic facts:

  • This is the usual, normal sequence of events:
    • I.   The person first suffers a loss, be it real or symbolic.
    • II.   Then, a period of depression follows.
    • III.   The depression builds to a crisis point.
    • IV.   The sufferer actively begins to contemplate suicide.
  • A suicidal person may not necessarily come across as outwardly depressed. A clownish exterior often hides deep pain. So does a “tough-guy” shell. Symptoms will vary according to individual personality and character. People close to the sufferer will be best positioned to pick up on uncharacteristic behavior hiding a deeper problem.
  • Any sudden mood swing may be a warning sign. Even an abrupt upturn in someone’s mood may be a distress signal. A previously depressed person who has taken the decision to end their life may appear happy, even relieved. Their entourage may think that the crisis moment has passed. It has not… Ask questions.
  • Every threat must be taken seriously. Even if we suspect we’re being manipulated, we have to carry on  counseling  the  afflicted  person.  We  can  tell the sufferer that suicidal threats should never be used simply as a way to be heard, or to be better understood. Someone that desperate needs our help, whether or not the suicide threat is a serious one.
  • A person in deep psychological distress often exhibits signs of extreme behavior. They may suffer insomnia; they may need to sleep all the time; there may be a loss of appetite, or a constant need to eat; there may be extreme fatigue and laziness, or bursts of hyperactivity… We are on the outside of the sufferer’s thoughts. We can only judge what we can see.

Book excerpt from Quebec Suicide Prevention Handbook (2014), Éditions TNT

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