This is a question I would have been too scared to ask a few years ago. I would have been frightened that talking about suicide would have planted a seed or encouraged someone to go ahead. I now realise the opposite is true. Asking someone about their suicidal feelings will often lower anxiety levels and act as a deterrent. Your openness will encourage them to talk about their problems, making the person feel less alone and isolated.
Today, 10th September, is suicide prevention day. Many people shy away from the topic of suicide for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing but suicide is preventable and there are small things you can do to help people in crisis. Most suicidal people don’t want to die; they just don’t want to live with the pain they are feeling.
If you suspect that a family member, friend or colleague is having suicidal thoughts, ask them about it. It shows that you care and people who have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it was to be able to talk about what they were experiencing.
Listen to what the person says. It doesn’t matter that you can’t fix their problems, listening without interruption, judgement or question can offer comfort and relief. Don’t minimise the person’s feelings or try to give advice, instead provide reassurance that help is available.
Ask them about their support network. If people feel alone and without support then they are at greater risk of attempting suicide so if they do not have family and friends, then direct them to organisations and professionals who can help (some examples are listed below)
If you feel able, explore and understand their suicide plans and find out if they have been in this position before. People are at greater risk of completing suicide if they have attempted to do it in the past. If they have a plan, the means to carry it out and it feels imminent, call 999 or take the person to A&E. Don’t leave the person alone.
It is important to know when to seek professional support and look after yourself. There are many organisations who are trained to help people in crisis and contacting them can provide the appropriate intervention and help.
The Samaritans reported that in 2018, there were 6,507 suicides in the UK and three quarters of those were men. Don’t be afraid of reaching out and talking about suicide. It can help. It will help.
If you are in crisis yourself, then call the Samaritans. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can contact them using the freephone number 116 123 or via email email@example.com.
If you would you like to speak to me about difficulties that you are experiencing, then please contact me on 07766 578453 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I am here to listen. You are not alone.