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FAMILY FUSION: Suicide – potential warning signs

Reverend Haynesley Griffith, [email protected]

FAMILY FUSION: Suicide – potential warning signs

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“Live life to the fullest, and focus on the positive.” Matt Cameron

I WAS ALWAYS curious why some of our youth in this tropical climate wear long-sleeved windbreaker jackets during the hot daytime.

One day, my curiosity was laid to rest when a young girl, wearing one of these windbreakers, accidentally exposed both of her wrists. It was a shocking revelation. Both of her wrists had several scars, which appeared to have been made by a razor blade. Apparently, the long sleeves were used as a means of preventing curious eyes from seeing the scars. I must say that this observation is not an isolated case.

Last week, I exposed your minds to some of the reasons why individuals commit suicide. Today, I shall discuss some potential warning signs that may be suggestive of a person contemplating suicide.

Because suicide is a very complex issue and each person attempting or following through with it may present a completely different dynamic, separate cases cannot be lumped together in the same category. Nevertheless, there are some consistent patterns that are often indicative of individuals moving toward the brink of suicide. Here are some major ones.

Verbal expressions

Some people who may be seriously thinking of committing suicide give verbal hints of their intention. Here are a few such expressions: “I am fed up with life”, “I cannot go on any longer”, “I wish I were dead”, “I have had enough of this pain”, “This may be the last time you may hear me”, “You are going to regret how you treated me”, “I feel trapped in this relationship”, “I feel I am a burden to my children”, “I think I need to take a long trip”, “Life no longer has any meaning for me”, “I appreciate all you have done for me over the years; it was nice meeting you”, “I am going to kill myself and take some people with me”.

If anyone close to you expresses words like those highlighted, always take their words seriously. These are potential warning signs.

Behavioural change

Another potential warning sign of an individual thinking of going the route of suicide is a significant shift in normal routine behaviour. If you know of someone who was once very active, but has suddenly withdrawn from you and others, that behaviour is a red-light signal and should not be taken lightly.

If a close relative or friend begins to shows signs of a major decrease in personal hygiene, or no longer wants to associate with work colleagues and friends, such behaviour is also a cause for concern.

If someone you know begins to give away possessions; is obsessed with getting a weapon; suddenly wants to take a long trip and unusual risks; begins to consume unusual amounts of alcohol or drugs; or displays any behaviour which does not fit the normal behavioural pattern of the individual, there is a great possibility that suicidal ideation may be circulating in his/her mind. A blind eye therefore should not be given to such changes.


Depression is considered one of the major potential triggers for suicide. Although depression can take several forms, there are certain basic characteristics that are consistent with this emotional and psychological condition, which can indicate suicidal thoughts.

Some critical situations may give rise to a person developing symptoms of depression. It could be the death of someone special, suicide of a friend, divorce or separation, even some form of abuse. You should also take note of an individual progressively complaining of not getting enough sleep, eating too much or too little, expressing feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, loss of drive and energy, continually crying, displaying frequent outbursts of anger, talking about feelings of worthlessness and experiencing anxiety attacks. These signs, when displayed, should gain your attention.

Relationship issues

Unresolved relationship conflict, especially within households, tends to generate an atmosphere for suicidal thoughts. When boyfriend and girlfriend or husband and wife are unable or unwilling to resolve their long-drawn-out issues, this type of situation has the potential to become a breeding ground for suicidal ideation and even follow-through. When children are exposed to such a socially contaminated home environment, and begin to display symptoms of displaced anger, fear, anxiety and other emotional behaviours, it is not difficult for them to think of giving up on life.

Cyber signs

The Internet is a marvellous tool but can also be used for deadly purposes. With very active social media platforms worldwide, young people believe that they should put almost everything in the public domain. Cyberbullying is a major worldwide concern. There is documented evidence that cyberbullying and such like have contributed to suicides among young people. Educating our youth about such dangers is a must.

Previous suicide attempts

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that between 20 and 50 per cent of individuals who attempt suicide have had a previous attempt. It means therefore any person who may have attempted is within the vulnerable category.

The Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC in the US adds that about 80 per cent of individuals who attempt or take their lives sent out warning signals. Vigilance therefore is the key word when it comes to those who show the apparent warning signs of suicide.

Recently, I was very touched by Rick Warren’s story. He is a Christian minister whose 27-year-old son committed suicide recently. He said: “During my days of deepest grief, in all of my shock, sorrow and struggle, I sat at the feet of God. I literally spent hours each day reading God’s Word, meditating on scripture and praying. I intentionally spent a significant amount of time being still before God.”

It goes to show that suicide can impact any of us no matter our station in life.

Each concerned citizen should become more observant in recognising potential warning signs that are consistent with persons intending to commit suicide. Taking the next step of following through with swift and decisive action may result in more lives being rescued from premature death. Let us make every effort to do our part.

Next week, some possible solutions will be explored.

Reverend Haynesley Griffith is a marriage and family life consultant. Email [email protected]