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Home » Men's Healthcare » Recognising the signs of suicidal ideation and how to help

Luke McGibbon

Pieta Crisis Helpline Therapist

Effective suicide prevention is a complex process unique to everyone. It involves open, non-judgmental communication and urging those with suicidal thoughts to seek professional support.

Suicide remains a pressing issue in Ireland, particularly among men of all ages. Timely intervention can help reduce suicide risk, highlighting the importance of both recognising where signs of suicidal thoughts or self-harm might be present and knowing how to support someone in need.

Warning signs of suicidal thoughts

“Some people are open about the risk they might be in, while in others, it’s completely unnoticeable,” says Luke McGibbon, therapist at Pieta’s crisis helpline. “Everyone is different, but there are more common indicators to look out for.”

These signs include expressions of hopelessness or worthlessness, researching ways to die by suicide, engaging in reckless behaviour, withdrawing from social interactions, experiencing changes in sleep patterns and increased substance abuse.

“One of the most common indicators is the perception of being a burden on loved ones or society,” McGibbon explains. “Statements such as ‘I’m only holding you back’ or ‘I’m only wearing you down’ are telltale signs of a sense of ‘burdensomeness’,” he adds.

Asking directly also shows that you’re comfortable
discussing it, and you’re saying: ‘let’s talk about it’.

How to reach out and help

Around 72% of suicides recorded by the Central Statistics Office in Ireland were male. Due to societal expectations, men may be less likely to talk about their wellbeing and ask for help.

If someone is experiencing suicide ideation or self-harm, approach the situation with empathy and understanding, McGibbon says. Ask the individual directly if they’re thinking about suicide. “When it’s verbalised, it’s easier to work through it,” he says. “Asking directly also shows that you’re comfortable discussing it, and you’re saying: ‘let’s talk about it’.”

Listening attentively and without judgment while reiterating what’s being said shows understanding, explains McGibbon. It’s essential not to shame or guilt someone showing signs of suicidal ideation or self-harm. Similarly, dismissing talk of suicide or viewing it as attention-seeking is unproductive. 

Encouraging additional support

Anyone contemplating suicide, experiencing self-harm or coping with suicide-related bereavement should connect with a professional without delay. Pieta’s crisis helpline offers free 24-hour assistance, 365 days a year from professional specialists. They also offer specialised suicide and self-harm intervention therapy for professional, ongoing support.

This service is free and available in person at 24 centres across Ireland or remotely via video or phone sessions. There are also support and therapy services available to those bereaved by suicide. “People thinking about suicide may need support from a few different directions,” McGibbon says. “It’s helpful to guide people to professional support networks like their GP and Pieta.”

If you, or anyone you know, are experiencing suicidal feelings, self-harm or suicide-related bereavement, contact Pieta on 1800 247 247 or text HELP to 51444.

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