How You Can Help Someone Who is Suicidal

Posted on September 7, 2017

It’s a terrifying thought that someone we know or love may be contemplating suicide. Suicide risk is much more common than is thought to be. In our lifetime, we will all encounter someone who needs our help. This person can be a stranger showing signs of visible distress, or a friend or family member who just needs us to show that we care. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the United States created a #Bethe1to campaign to teach people about what they can do for someone who may be suicidal. Learning the five simple steps can help you save a life. The steps are:

1) Ask.
Research has shown that it is a serious misconception that asking someone whether they have suicidal thoughts will increase their likelihood of doing it. Don’t be afraid to ask someone directly if they are suicidal, for example, “Are you thinking about committing suicide? How can I help?”. Let them realise that you care in a non-judgmental way and listen carefully to what they are saying. Help them focus on their reasons for living.

2) Keep them safe.
Do not leave the person’s side until you have gotten them help. Ask if they have planned or done any suicidal actions. Ask if they have a plan and method to carry out the act. Try removing any means that they can use to harm themselves.

3) Be present.
Feeling like they have a connection with someone is a good protective factor for a person contemplating suicide. Let them know you are someone whom they can turn to for help and continue being a good listener.

4) Get them appropriate help.
If the person is in immediate danger of harming themselves, take them to the emergency room. Help them find a counsellor or therapist to talk to and make sure they know the suicide prevention hotline in your city. Guide them in creating a safety plan which they can use when they are in distress or when they feel suicidal. It acts as a reminder to reach out and keep themselves alive. Throughout the creation of the plan, continue connecting to strategies that the person has used in the past and worked. Also connect back to their positive feelings and desire to live.

5) Follow up.
Continue checking back with the person even after you’ve gotten them appropriate help so the person is reminded that that you are there for them when needed. Suicidal feelings are not always present – they come and go. It is crucial to be there for the person in their self-destructive state until they reconnect with the part of themselves that wants to stay alive. Following up helps the person remain feeling connected.

It is painful seeing someone in a suicidal state. Most suicidal states are transient and remember that being there for the person is enough to increase their chance of staying alive. Most people who were suicidal previously now live meaningful lives.

Category(s):Suicide Prevention

Source material from Psychology Today

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