My friend is talking about suicide, what do I do?
Suicide is one of the scariest words you could possibly hear from your friend or family member. It’s a word that brings out very strong emotions in many of us. Hearing somebody mention suicide is a situation I hope you never find yourself in. However, this situation could pop up on us at some time or another. I believe that a little information could go a long way in helping us deal with such a situation, and could really help somebody in a crisis.
This blog is an introduction to what you could do if you suspect that somebody you care about may be in a suicidal crisis. This is by no means an exhaustive list or a step-by-step for every situation. Please refer to our database for some suicide intervention agencies that are well equipped and able to support those in need. These agencies should always be your point of call in these situations, as they can give you advice on what to do and who to contact. They can even help us with the emotional stress and strain that situations like this could possibly bring up.
So, let’s get down to business.
1. Don’t be afraid of asking your friend about suicidal thoughts or behaviours.
Often a person struggling with suicidal thoughts may feel as though they can’t talk to anybody about how they are feeling. They may feel that nobody understands and feel ashamed. If we feel that our friend may be struggling with these thoughts, it is completely okay to ask them “Do you sometimes feel so bad that you think of suicide?”
Often people think that by mentioning the S-word we may be giving the other person the idea of Suicide, and that we should avoid the topic altogether. But in reality there is little to no danger of giving somebody this idea. The goal of asking this question is to bring this topic into the open, so the person in crisis can open up about how they are feeling.
Asking somebody if they are okay and if they need help is a great start when you are worried about them. Don’t hesitate; start this conversation sooner rather than later. Be compassionate, be honest and share that you are worried about them, and don’t judge or belittle them. Above all don’t panic, it’s natural for you to be experiencing heightened emotions, try to keep them in check so you can think clearly.
2. Discuss what is going on in their mind.
If the person tells you that they have been having suicidal thoughts, it would be wise to ask some questions to gather some more information.
These are helpful questions to ask;
- Ask how they feel on a scale of 1-10 (1= I don’t think I can do this anymore. 10= I’m perfectly happy with my life)
- Ask if they have a suicide plan.
- Ask if they have a set time for doing this.
- Ask them how strong their suicidal thoughts are on a scale of 1-10. [1= I’m not experiencing this, 10=I have vivid and detailed thoughts many times a day]
If the answers to any of these questions are worrying, then action will be required. You can seek assistance from a suicide help line, offer to take the person in crisis to a GP who can assess and give advice on the next course of action, or you can call 000 to get immediate help if it’s required.
The goal of these questions is to get the person in crisis to talk about how they are feeling, to let you understand their situation and to inform you so you can get the help they need. The more information you can gather, the better idea you have of what is needed to diffuse this crisis and to ensure they are safe.
These two steps are small but they can make a big difference in very difficult situations. To sum it all up; 1. Ask them if they are considering suicide. 2. Discuss their situation with them to gather information on how you can refer them to professional help.
There is one very important thing I wanted to mention that to finish off this blog; you are not responsible for the choices of other people. At the end of the day we are all in charge of our own lives and nobody else. It is a natural for us to try and fix other people’s problems, but often it is best to let your friend do this with the support of professionals.
However, we can still help. We can show people that we care, remind them they are not alone, and we can help them find information on who can help them in the long term.
Next time you receive a text message from a friend, or see a social media post that suggests they are thinking about suicide, reach out to them and let them know they are not alone. Encourage them to call Lifeline on 13 11 14, and if you are strongly concerned for their safety, call 000 immediately. Give them the chance to be open and honest, and through this you will give them the hope to make it to tomorrow.