How Should I Respond to Suicidal Behavior?
The steps to helping a suicidal person: Show You Care –
Ask About Suicidal Intent – Asking does not plant an idea in someone’s head. It provides relief and opens the door to communication.
- Speak slowly and calmly
- Be positive and reassuring
- Acknowledge the person’s pain
- Give the person your full attention
- Be supportive and non-judgmental
- Be honest and direct: “I care about you and am concerned”
Get Help – Offer help but recognize your own limits
- Do you have thoughts of killing yourself?
- When you say that, I feel concerned. “Are you thinking about suicide?
Always Offer Hope Help them to understand that life in general, and theirs in particular, is important and has purpose and meaning. You can say…
- Do not be the only person offering help or providing support
- You are not alone. Help is available.
- Who do you trust that you’d like to talk to?
- Can I go with you to get help?
- “There are solutions that can help you feel better and I will help you find them”
- “Other people who have considered suicide have gotten help to feel better”
- “Perhaps it’s hard to see it right now, but you have a future that is important”
- “I’m sure there are other people who count on you. Let’s try and identify some of them”
What are Warning Signs of Suicide? Warning Signs: Cause for Immediate Concern
Other Warning Signs These are indications that the person is in severe psychological pain. They may not signal an immediate emergency but the person does need help.
- Mentioning, threatening suicide or expressing a strong wish to die
- Making a plan—how, when, where
- Seeking access to lethal means—guns, medications, poisons, rope, alcohol, cars
- Talking, writing, drawing, or texting about death, dying or suicide
- Giving away prized possessions, putting life in order
- Showing abrupt improvement after a period of sadness or withdrawal
- Feeling “beyond help”
Indications of serious depression that could lead to suicide:
- Increased alcohol or other drug use
- Abandonment of activities once considered enjoyable
- Impulsiveness and unnecessary risk-taking
- Neglect of personal appearance
- Preoccupation with death (through music, poetry, drawings, video games, movies)
- Severe mood swings
- Persistent feelings of failure
- Unexpected anger or wish for revenge
- Persistent physical complaints
- Difficulty concentrating
Things to Avoid, do not –
- Unrelenting low mood
- No sense of purpose in life
- Anxiety, agitation or psychic pain
- Sleep problems
- Pessimism or hopelessness
- Desperation or feeling trapped
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Argue about whether suicide is right or wrong
- Minimize or discount the problem
- Say anything that might cause shame or guilty feelings
- Try to forcefully remove a weapon
- Act shocked
- Interrupt and offer advice
- Offer unrealistic solutions
- Promise to keep a secret
The most important thing is: If someone is in physical pain we would try to take action to heal or decrease it. If someone is in pain emotionally, we should also offer resources that can help. They may include medication, seeing a professional, learning skills to decrease anxiety, self-care, coping and reaching out for help, support groups, nutritional support and physical activity. There are many ways to offer help. Asking, checking in, and talking about mental health challenges, disordered thinking or mental illness is OK.