By: Keisha Coleman MA, LPCC, NCC
“See you guys tomorrow! He did so great today. Earned another gold star on his uniform!” she said, smiling and waving us away as I picked my son up from practice two years ago. It would be the last time I would see her. Two days later, she would be found inside her parked truck with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Amye* was one of the happiest people I ever knew. She was young (only in her 30’s) and lively, with a young son whom she adored. I spoke with her every single day, and she seldom wore any other expression on her face than a smile and a laugh. She was always making plans for the kids she worked with, and she always made sure that everyone around her was loved, appreciated, and cared for. We were only friends for a short time, but in Amye I knew I had found a “for life” friend.
Unfortunately, Amye’s life came to an end far too soon, via suicide. Looking back, I never saw any signs. I, a licensed mental health professional, did not see the signs. But they were there.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America, claiming the lives of over 47,000 people. With the growing epidemic, many people are wondering how to know if someone they love may be contemplating ending their life, and how they can help those people.
While often the signs are subtle, there are several to watch for, including the following:
Talking about feeling as if they are a burden, feeling trapped, or making suicidal statements.
Reporting they have no reason to live.
Experiencing unbearable pain.
Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
Increased use of alcohol or drug use
Looking for ways to kill themselves online, or talking about their plans
Isolating themselves from friends or family
Sleeping too much or too little
Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
Giving away possessions
Sometimes, the signs are clear. Other times they are not. If the signs are there, you can help that person. If they are at presently high risk, do not leave them alone. Talk to them. Let them know that you care and are deeply concerned. Listen attentively when they talk with you. Do not keep suicidal tendencies a secret. Do not be judgmental. Follow up on a regular basis. Give them words of encouragement. Help them find professional help, and support them to follow through. And don’t forget to take care of yourself, too.
Losing Amye was a tragedy, not just to me but to her son, her family, and to our community. One death by suicide is too many. Realize what is going on around you. Start talking. Start understanding. Start helping. And we’re here to help too! #youmatter
*name changed to protect privacy of the deceased.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-8255
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