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Suicide Prevention and Awareness for Supporters of Sidelined Athletes

If you are aware of a sidelined athlete experiencing depression, it is essential to continuously monitor for potential suicidal tendencies. Nothing can be taken for granted. The signs of suicide risk are similar to the signs of depression so it is of utmost importance to be on the front end with suicide prevention awareness and pay close attention to a deepening depression. 

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Sidelined USA wishes to equip all members of the athlete’s support network to understand the signs that may indicate additional help and intervention are necessary. To that end, we have compiled the following information and encourage you to share this post with each member of the support network surrounding the depressed athlete. 

As the American Association of Suicidology says, “Suicide prevention is everyone’s business.” 

KNOW THE SIGNS

“Pain isn’t always obvious, but most suicidal people show some signs that they are thinking about suicide. The signs may appear in conversations, through their actions, or in social media posts. If you observe one or more of these warning signs, especially if the behavior is new, has increased, or seems related to a painful event, loss, or change, step in or speak up.” - Suicideispreventable.org

Warning Signs of Acute Risk:

  • Talking about death or suicide

  • Seeking methods for self-harm, such as searching online or obtaining a gun

  • Talking or writing about hopelessness or having no reason to live

  • Saying goodbye to people as if they won't be seen again

  • Giving away belongings or getting affairs in order when there's no other logical explanation for doing this

If any of these signs are present, do not delay in getting the athlete help. Do not dismiss the comments as a “momentary lapse” or an attention-getting ploy. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for additional information and support. 

Warning Signs of Critical Risk:

  • Loss of interest in the things one cares about

  • Physical pain - stomach aches, headaches, body aches, and/or fatigue

  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life

  • Anxiety, agitation

  • Changes in sleep - unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time

  • Changes in eating habits

  • Feeling trapped - like there's no way out

  • Hopelessness

  • A deepening depression

  • Withdrawal

  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

  • Reckless behavior

  • Sudden mood changes

  • Unusual neglect of personal appearance

  • Substance abuse

If warning signs are observed, seek professional help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

*These lists are compiled from the following resources: suicideispreventable.org, suicidology.org, mayoclinic.org. Refer to these websites for more information. 

KNOW THE FACTS

The following is a compilation of some of the myths/facts about suicide. 

According to the Nevada Office of Suicide Prevention, these are the facts about youth suicide: 

MYTH: A promise to keep a note unopened and unread should always be kept.

FACT: Where the potential for harm, or actual harm, is disclosed then confidentiality cannot be maintained. A sealed note with the request for the note not to be opened is a very strong indicator that something is seriously amiss. A sealed note is a late sign in the progression towards suicide.

MYTH: People who threaten suicide are just seeking attention.

FACT: All suicide attempts must be treated as though the person has the intent to die. Do not dismiss a suicide attempt as simply being an attention-gaining device. It is likely that the young person has tried to gain attention and, therefore, this attention is needed. The attention that they get may well save their lives.

MYTH: Only certain types of people become suicidal.

FACT: Everyone has the potential for suicide. The evidence is that predisposing conditions may lead to either attempted or completed suicides. It is unlikely that those who do not have the predisposing conditions (for example, depression, conduct disorder, substance abuse, feeling of rejection, rage, emotional pain and anger) will complete suicide.

MYTH: The only effective intervention for suicide comes from professional psychotherapists with extensive experience in the area.

FACT: All people who interact with suicidal adolescents can help them by way of emotional support and encouragement. Psychotherapeutic interventions also rely heavily on family, and friends providing a network of support.

MYTH: Most suicidal young people never seek or ask for help with their problems.

FACT: Evidence shows that they often tell their school peers of their thoughts and plans. Most suicidal adults visit a medical doctor during the three months prior to killing themselves. Adolescents are more likely to 'ask' for help through non-verbal gestures than to express their situation verbally to others.

MYTH: Suicidal young people are always angry when someone intervenes and they will resent that person afterwards.

FACT: While it is common for young people to be defensive and resist help at first, these behaviours are often barriers imposed to test how much people care and are prepared to help. For most adolescents considering suicide, it is a relief to have someone genuinely care about them and to be able to share the emotional burden of their plight with another person. When questioned some time later, the vast majority express gratitude for the intervention.

MYTH: Suicide is much more common in young people from higher (or lower) socioeconomic status (SES) areas.

FACT: The causes of suicidal behavior cut across SES boundaries. While the literature in the area is incomplete, there is no definitive link between SES and suicide. This does not preclude localized tendencies nor trends in a population during a certain period of time.

MYTH: Every death is preventable.

FACT: No matter how well intentioned, alert and diligent people's efforts may be, there is no way of preventing all suicides from occurring.

According to the American Association of Suicidology

myth: suicides happen without warning

FACT: Most teens who attempt or die by suicide have communicated their distress or plans to at least one other person. These communications are not always direct, so it is important to know some of the key warning signs of suicide.

myth: suicidal teens overreact to life events

FACT: Problems that may not seem like a big deal to one person, particularly adults, may be causing a great deal of distress for the suicidal teen. We have to remember that perceived crises are just as concerning and predictive of suicidal behavior as actual crises.

myth: talking to teens about suicide makes them likely to kill themselves

FACT: Talking about suicide with teens gives them an opportunity to express thoughts and feelings about something they may have been keeping secret. Research clearly demonstrates there are iatrogenic effects of asking teens about suicide (Gould et al. 2005). In fact, discussion brings it into the open and allows an opportunity for intervention.

According to the World Health Organization

myth: People who talk about suicide do not mean to do it.

FACT: People who talk about suicide may be reaching out for help or support. A significant number of people contemplating suicde are experiencing anxiety, depression, and hopelessness and may feel that there is no other option.

Myth: Someone who is suicidal is determined to die.

FACT: On the contrary, suicidal people are often ambivalent about living or dying. Someone may act impulsively . . . Access to emotional support at the right time can prevent suicide.

myth: Only people with mental disorders are suicidal.

FACT: Suicidal behavior indicates deep unhappiness but not necessarily mental disorder. Many people living with mental disorders are not affected by suicidal behavior, and not all people who take their own lives have a mental disorder.

Myth: Talking about suicide is a bad idea and can be interpreted as encouragement.

FACT: Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are contemplating suicide do not know who to speak to. Rather than encouraging suicidal behavior, talking openly can give an individual other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide.

myth: Once someone is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.

FACT: Heightened suicide risk is often short-term and situation-specific. While suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent and an individual with previously suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long life.

It is all of our responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of the sidelined athletes in our lives.

The bottom line is when in doubt, seek help from trained professionals. 

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Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Neither Sidelined USA nor its affiliates provide clinical or medical care of any kind via their relationship with Sidelined. At no time should a user have an expectation of clinical care or professional services offered or rendered.