Suicide: It’s not a subject anyone likes discussing – but raising awareness of this devastating silent killer is vital for those who are struggling.
Here’s our step-by-step guide on how you can support someone on the brink:
- Get serious – most mental health organisations agree that you should always take someone who says they’re suicidal seriously. There’s a misconception that people who talk about suicide don’t go through with it, but unfortunately that is not the case. If someone does say they’re feeling so low they want to end their life, encourage them to seek professional support. This shows you believe them and they’re not alone.
- Get real – don’t be afraid to ask how someone is doing. One thing that many of us are reluctant to do is be honest for fear of it being awkward. Simple phrases like ‘I am worried about you, is everything ok?’ can encourage them to talk. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recommends that you even go as far ask asking directly, ‘Have you ever felt so bad that you have had thoughts of suicide?’
- Get connected – show that you are invested in them by creating a space for you both to talk. Put away your phone so you’re not distracted. Explain that you are not going to judge them. You care about them and want to help. Try phrases like, ‘I can’t imagine what this pain feels like, but I want to understand.’
- Get listening – once you’ve told them that they’re not alone and that you are there for them, it’s time to sit and listen. Repeat their words back to them in your own words. This shows that you are being attentive. Repeating information can also make sure that you have understood it properly.
- Get asking – Now they know you are a safe person to share their thoughts with, you can try exploring their feelings. Rethink Mental Illness suggests you try the following: “ask about their reasons for living and dying and listen to their answers. Try to explore their reasons for living in more detail. Focus on people they care about, and who care about them. And who they might hurt by leaving them behind. Reassure them that they won’t feel this way forever, and that intensity of feelings can reduce in time. Encourage them to focus on getting through the day rather than focussing on the future. Encourage them to seek help that they are comfortable with.
- Get back-up – you don’t have to have all the answers yourself. Yes, you can listen attentively and check up on those you are worried about but remember that you can only do so much. These aren’t easy issues, and no one has all the answers all the time. There are a whole host of agencies: MIND, SAMARITANS, Mental Health Foundation, ReThink who can also help. It’s important that you look after your own mental health when supporting someone who is suicidal.