If someone is talking about suicide, always take it seriously.
I received a phone call, and a text suggesting he was about to commit suicide. My best friend had spoken to him earlier that day and knew something was up, it wasn’t the first time he had talked about killing himself.
I hadn’t spoken to him in months, what was I to do? My heart started to race, I was overcome with panic. My hands started to shake and I started to sweat.
I called and messaged him, his friends and his parents. Nobody wanted to know, I guess it scared them that suicide was a reality, not something that had hit our friendship group before.
I finally got through to him with a funny meme, at this point I wanted to do all I could so he knew that I was there for him, knowing that a funny meme is what he would respond to. I needed something that would grab his attention. He did eventually reply and together we sought the help he needed.
The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide. It can be difficult to understand what would drive someone to be suicidal, but a suicidal person is in so much pain they can’t see any other option.
In 2017 there were 6,213 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland. What do you do when someone you know is suicidal though? When suicide is no longer a statistic, no longer a scene in a movie. When it becomes your reality. Here are the best expert tips.
Encourage them to talk
Ask direct questions and have frank conversations. Actively listen to what the person has to say and watch what they do while opening up to you. You can start conversations with the below for instance:
“I have been feeling concerned about you lately.”
“Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.”
Spot the warning signs
The best way to prevent suicide is to recognise warning signs and know how to respond. You can play a tole in suicide prevention by showing you care, involving a doctor and pointing out the alternatives.
Major warning signs for suicide include withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities, writing a lot about death, change in eating or sleeping habits and rebellious behaviour. Take into account that these signs become more dangerous if the person suffers from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.
So your conversations are awkward or uncomfortable, be yourself. You want your friend or family member to feel at ease, so don’t change who you are. If sending a meme will make them laugh for a bit, then do that. If you’re a naturally shy person, don’t try and suddenly be an introvert. Your friend or family member is still themselves, and you should be too.
Empathise with your friend and family family and don’t minimise feelings or shame for their thoughts. Repeatedly suggest that suicidal crises are temporary things. Waiting for a while and getting help can allow the suicidal crisis to pass. Instead of asking them to call you when feeling suicidal, book plans in together or take up a new hobby together so they have something to look forward to each week.
Make a safety plan
Help the person develop a set of steps he or she promises to follow during a suicidal crisis. It should identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships. Also include contact numbers for the person’s doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.