Most people can be helped in getting through their moment of crisis if they have someone who will spend time with them, listen, take them seriously and help them talk about their thoughts and feelings. Almost every suicidal crisis has at its center a strong ambivalence: "I can't handle the pain anymore," but not necessarily, "I want to be dead forever!" What most suicidal people want is not to be dead but some way to get through the terrible pain they are experiencing and someone they can turn to during those terrible moments of fear and desperation.
Having someone to talk to can make a big difference. However, you may need to be persistent before they are willing to talk. Talking about suicide or suicidal thoughts will not push someone to kill themselves. It is also not true that people who talk about killing themselves will not actually try it. Take any expressed intention of suicide very seriously. While you may not be able to solve these problems for a friend or classmate, you may be able to help the person find someone who can help.
1. Recognize the warning signs of depression and suicide risk
Research suggests that the majority of people who attempt suicide literally do something to let others know their intentions before they act. These "warning signs" consist of personal behaviors, verbal and non-verbal communications. Mental and emotional illnesses such as depression and bi-polar disorders are often tied to suicidal feelings.The risk of suicide may be greatest as the person's depression begins to lift.
2. Take suicidal statements seriously and trust your instincts
Fifty to 75 percent of all suicides give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member. Imminent signs must be taken seriously.
3. Get involved and use "active listening"
By listening to what the person in crisis has to say and by asking direct and open questions, we show our willingness to talk about anything with that person, including his/her feelings about suicide.
4. Encourage the person to seek professional help
5. While directly asking about suicide can be scary, the person your concernedabout needs you to ask: "Do you feel so badly you are thinking about suicide?"
Almost everyone thinks about suicide at some point in their life. By listening and observing the "warning signs" of suicide and asking direct questions, we demonstrate our willingness to talk about anything with the person in crisis, including his/her feelings about suicide. He/she is likely to feel understood and that you understand the pain they are in. It can be a great relief to the person if his/her suicidal feelings can be brought out into the open and discussed freely without shock or disapproval; it shows that you are taking the person seriously.
6. If the answer is "Yes," take the person's response seriously and continue the "Suicide Risk" assessment questions:
If the answer is still "Yes," ask:
If the person has a definite plan, the means are available and the time is set and immediate, you should consider the person to be high risk for suicide.
7. Do not leave a person whom you feel is "high risk" for suicide alone, even for a moment
If a person has expressed suicidal feelings, has a plan, the means available and has a time set, you should always take him or her seriously. If there is any doubt, take him or her seriously. A person who is "high risk" for suicide should not be left alone. Keep talking to that person, stay with him or her or arrange for another party (someone who that person trusts and feels comfortable with) to stay with them. Remove from the vicinity any firearms, drugs or sharp objects that could be used for suicide.
8. If the person in crisis has taken some form of life-threatening action, get help immediately
If a person has taken any action that you believe could be considered life-threatening, don't hesitate to get that person to a hospital yourself (if practical) or call an ambulance or emergency services.
Do not counsel the person yourself, seek professional help
Don't pretend you have all the answers. The most important thing you can do may be to help them find help.
Don't be afraid of being wrong. It is difficult for even experts to understand who is at serious risk of suicide and who is not. Many of the warning signs for suicide could also indicate problems with drug or alcohol abuse, domestic violence, depression, or another mental illness, which still need professional intervention.
*SOURCE: Adapted from information provided by original sources:
American Association of Suicidology. Retrieved on August 2, 2010 from http://www.suicidology.org/web/guest/stats-and-tools/fact-sheets
Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Featured Resources: College Students. Retrieved on August 2, 2010 from http://www.sprc.org/featured_resources/customized/pdf/college_students.pdf
The Samaritans. The Keys to Effective Suicide Prevention. Retrieved on March 21, 2010 from http://www.samaritansnyc.org/prevent.html
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. About Suicide. Retrieved on March 21, 2010 from http://www.afsp.org
The American Association of Suicidology. Helping and Understanding the Suicidal Individual. Retrieved on March 21, 2010 from www.suicidology.org
"© copyright Mental Health America" Retrieved on August 2, 2010 from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/go/suicide