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Uncomfortable Questions

By Anna Eames

Written for the West Australian by Peta Rasdien

Suicide and mental health are difficult subjects for many people. To help, here are the answers to some of the questions you may be too afraid to ask.

How long does it take to get suicidal: Days, weeks, months?

Some people may become at risk of suicide after periods of depression or other mental health issues. Others may have thoughts of suicide after a major life trauma.

Most people with mental illness never attempt suicide. However, 87 per cent of people who take their own life have mental illness. It is often a complex combination of life events as well as mental illness that increases risk, so there is no time frame.

How can you tell if someone has moved from depression to suicidal thoughts?

Losing hope is a sign that things may have worsened. Other risk factors you might notice include:

  • Saying they want to die (directly or indirectly talking about “things being too much” or they “can’t see any way out”)
  • Putting affairs in order, that is, giving away possessions, especially those that have special significance
  • Writing about death or suicide, a suicide note or goodbye letters
  • Withdrawal and isolation from family and friends
  • Withdrawal from activities or commitments that were previously important to them
  • Uncharacteristic risk-taking or reckless behaviour
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Self-harming behaviour
  • Suicidal plans — when or how they may do it — take this risk very seriously

It is considered an emergency when someone has moved on from thinking about it, to making actual plans. In this case call for immediate support.

If you have any intimation that a person may be having thoughts about suicide, take it seriously and try to talk with the person and seek help and advice from a service such as the suicide call-back service, 1300 659 467.

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