How can you help someone who may be suicidal?
In a nutshell, be informed, sensitive and involved. Standing aside and wringing your hands while a friend or loved one spirals into suicide is both futile and cowardly. Here’s a list of things you should and shouldn’t do:
- Be aware. Learn the warning signs
- Show interest and support
- Ask the person directly whether he or she is contemplating suicide
- Be direct. Talk openly and freely about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Encourage expressions of feelings and accept those feelings as sincere expressions
- Don’t judge. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life
- Don’t dare the person to kill himself or herself. That could precipitate the attempt
- Don’t command them to refrain from suicide.
- Don’t ask “why”. That encourages defensiveness
- Offer understanding, not sympathy
- Don’t act shocked. That creates distance
- Don’t allow yourself to be sworn to secrecy. Seek support
- Don’t offer glib reassurances. That only proves you don’t understand. Instead, offer realistic hope that alternatives are available.
- ACT! Remove weapons, poisons or other means of suicide. Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention