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Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Are there any signs or things that would allow you to be able to determine if someone is using suicidal thoughts to gain attention or if they really are seriously contemplating suicide?

Asked by Adirondackwannabe (36630points) April 27th, 2010

This was prompted by the previous question. What would be some things that might lead you to consider some suicidal thoughts more seriously? And what would lead you to dismiss other threats of suicide?

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25 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

Repeated threats will make me think they just want attention, I will believe them if they actually do it….or if they try it once and fail.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

You’ll believe them if they do it? That’s pretty cold isn’t it?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

My gut feeling.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Does the person have an actual plan? And have they taken steps to implement it? (For instance, if someone says they’re going to overdose, have they actually acquired the medication?) Also, things like giving possessions away tend to point toward a serious attempt.

Obviously, it’s not foolproof. Unfortunately we sometimes get it wrong. Almost every psychiatrist I know has stories of a patient who committed suicide despite their efforts.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@Blackberry Good, I was laughing as I read it and just wanted to be sure that’s what you meant.

Blackberry's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Yeah. The thing is…...there are so many people with depression and that are depressed it’s hard to separate the serious people from the not-so-serious people.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I should make it clear I was laughing at Blackberry’s response, not at the idea of suicide.

gailcalled's avatar

One of my uncles brought my father a pistol and some bullets and a permit. My father tried once, but his Parkinson’s made it very difficult to load the gun; my mother found him fully dressed and sprawled across the bed, heavily sleeping.

In spite of our attempts (or mine, anyway) to think of other alternatives, several weeks later he succeeded, outside in our driveway. The neighbor called the police, thinking that a large dog had died.

My father was determined, sadly.

wonderingwhy's avatar

Verbalizing a plan or putting in place the instruments necessary to carry out a threat is usually a sign. I rarely dismiss the threat, it’s worth my time to give them the attention and try to understand their motive behind needing it, but I also accept that I have limited capability to stop them if they’re serious.

free_fallin's avatar

Unfortunately there really isn’t a way to truly determine if they’re serious or not. I attempted and never did or said anything for people to think I would do it. I chose a time when I was alone and would be alone for a few days. Fortunately a friend surprised visited me and saved my life. I would never attempt again. It’s an unfortunate circumstance for a person to feel death is the only way. I’d say if they attempted to do it then I would take them seriously. I don’t immediately dismiss a threat but it’s difficult to take a person seriously when they threaten it often. In the end, there is no way of knowing whether a person is going to do it or not until they actually do it.

Sophief's avatar

@gailcalled I’m sorry about your father. What I will say, which many will disagree with, is that your father had guts. I don’t believe it is the easy way out, I believe it takes a very brave person to do what he did. Obviously you might not see it that way, but I respect him.

gailcalled's avatar

No, it wasn’t courage; it was rage at being less powerful and more dependent. MIllions of people live happy and loving lives at the stage of Parkinson’s he was in. He refused to let his three children (dream kids in the scheme of things) behind his emotional wall. He waited for five years after the diagnosis to tell my mother.

The ripple effects go on for generations, I might add. I spent years with a really smart psychiatrist to work through this.

CMaz's avatar

Are there any signs… Yes, they are dead.
Individuals that truly just want to off themselves succeed.

Suicide or the attempt of it is a cry for help. The intent is to get an answer to their problem to avoid it.

Men are more likely to follow through then women.

wtfrickinfrack's avatar

My uncle committed suicide a few years ago and it was a total shock. He never mentioned a thing (which I suppose makes sense because he obviously didn’t want attention or to be stopped). On the other hand, I have an aunt that threatens or “attempts” suicide any time she encounters a difficulty (or around every 3 years). I put “attempts” in quotations because she’s always miraculously found when she’s about to attempt it. It might be cold… but I’d call her an attention whore in the worst way.

Jude's avatar

They start to give their possessions away.

free_fallin's avatar

@gailcalled I agree in that it isn’t courage that drives one to attempt suicide. In my case it was cowardice. It’s a lot harder to live than it is to die.

gemiwing's avatar

This is long and kind of rambling. I apologize in advance. Maybe make some tea and grab some toast. Or a cat to sit on your lap while reading.

It’s part gut feeling and part past experiences with that person. This is so difficult because I have a huge issue with labeling emotional reactions as ‘attention grabbing’, serious or very serious. Who the hell am I to say? I don’t live in their heads.

So, for me, I ignore the labeling and focus instead on the cause. What’s going on? If they are ‘attention seeking’ (which I think is a bullshit term because we’re humans. We all seek attention every day) then I try to look deeper at the ‘why’. So if they don’t have the words to express their pain- I try to help them find the words. Or at least hand them a tool so they can find the words themselves.

More about ‘attention seeking’:
Toddlers and infants, who don’t have a good grasp of language yet, often use gestures to communicate. Sometimes their feelings are so strong that it comes across as a tantrum. Some people say they are ‘just trying to get attention’- I agree. They have a problem and want some attention so someone can help them fix whatever is wrong.

Adults are the same. When words and higher level reasoning fails us- we need attention because we can need another human’s help to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it. Like it or not, humans are social and take many social cues from our ‘smallest tribe’ (immediate family/friends) and from our ‘larger tribe’ (country/society in general). So when something goes wrong, it would be natural for a human to ‘show off’ in order to get attention- they need something from the greater group that they are having trouble finding within themselves.

When one adds society rules that state we can’t talk about certain issues/fears/states of mind, then what option is left for these disturbed people to use? Should they get a billboard advertising for help, without using language that is frowned up on in their small/large tribe- hoping someone who sees it can help them? No, they act out in their own smaller sphere, and hope that those who know them best will hear them and care.

The most painful part of the whole thing, for me, is that even if you hear them; even if you try to help them; some people don’t know what to do with the help and kill themselves anyway.

Perhaps some of this is reductionist. Those who weren’t ‘crying wolf’ are gone, so those left who haven’t completed – are the ones most judged as ‘fake’.

thriftymaid's avatar

The only thing you can do online that may really be helpful is giving the national Suicide Crisis Center telephone number. 1–800-273-TALK

Buttonstc's avatar

Suicide is not a brave act in any way. When my mother succeeded at suicide it was less than a month prior to my 18 yr. old sister’s wedding. How is that brave in any way?

There is a very simple definition of suicide given to me by a Psychiatrist with 25+ years experience in whose office I ended up for many years.

Simply put: suicide is rage turned inward.

There is really no sure fire way to determine if someone speaking of suicide will actually complete it in the immediate future but you brush if off as “attention seeking” at your peril and theirs.

I guess it depends upon how much this person means to you, how cavalierly you respond to their speaking of suicide. An anonymous person on the Internet is different from a SO or family member.

People who are dealing with tons of unresolved anger are unlikely to be looking for attention. You can choose to be nonchalant and casual about it if you want but you should ask yourself how you would feel if they succeed.

Personally, I’d rather put my efforts into finding them the help they need in order to begin to resolve the underlying issues causing the incredible amount of frustration and anger with which they have been unable to come to terms.
That’s the only realistic hope of averting the inevitable.

But, in the end, it is their choice and their choice alone.

But to assume that it’s mere attention seeking, may prove to be a very dangerous assumption indeed. If someone has suicidal ideations, there’s usually a damn good reason for it other than merely wanting attention.

BTW My mother didn’t bother threatening it. She just did it (after numerous failed attempts). Consider yourself fortunate if someone chooses to confide in you that this is in their thoughts. SUB consciously, they are most likely hoping for help from you (or anyone) to protect them from their darker impulses.

Taciturnu's avatar

There is absolutely no way to tell, unless you have some sort of psychic/ telepathic capabilities you would like to share with the world.

Always treat a threat as legitimate. If it weren’t and you acted, no harm done. If it were and you failed to act, imagine pondering what role you could have played in protecting them while attending their funeral.

beautifulbobby193's avatar

A genuinely suicidal person is most unlikely to speak about it beforehand.

CMaz's avatar

A genuinely suicidal person will commit suicide.

The desire to “speak about it beforehand” is a call for help. With the actual intent to be saved.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Unless you’re so close to that person that you notice changes in their routines or directly know of hardship or severe depression then I don’t think there are signs.

CMaz's avatar

Usually, you will see signs if that individuals intent is to get your attention.

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