Choices for Wellbeing: How to help someone who feels suicidal

With more people reporting thoughts of self-harm or suicide during the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.

And new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that suicides are increasing in England and Wales.

It’s time to bust the myths surrounding suicide, and make sure that we can all offer the best support and advice when it comes to suicide prevention.

We look at three tips for offering support to someone who feels suicidal.

Suicide prevention tip 1: Speak up if you’re worried

If you spot the warning signs of suicide in someone you care about, you may wonder if it’s a good idea to say anything. What if you’re wrong? What if the person gets angry?

In such situations, it’s natural to feel uncomfortable or afraid. But anyone who talks about suicide or shows other warning signs needs immediate help, the sooner the better.

Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone.

But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.

You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving them the opportunity to express their feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.

When talking to a suicidal person:

  • Be yourself. Let the person know you care and that they are not alone. Your concern is more important that finding the right words.
  • Listen. Let the person talk and unload their feelings. Even starting the conversation is a positive sign
  • Be sympathetic and non-judgemental. It’s a big step for someone to talk about how they’re feeling.
  • Offer hope. Reassurance is good. Let them know that they can get help and that these feelings are temporary. 
  • Take the person seriously. If a suicidal person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask if they’re having thoughts of suicide. You’re allowing them to share their pain with you, not putting ideas in their head.

You should never:

  • Say things like ‘You have so much to live for’, ‘Your suicide will hurt the family’ or ‘Just snap out of it’. Lecture on the value of life or argue that suicide is wrong.
  • Promise confidentiality or be sworn to secrecy. You may need to speak to mental health professionals to keep the person safe. 
  • Give advice or make the person feel like they must justify their suicidal feelings. You can’t fix their problems and it’s important to remember that.

Suicide Prevention Tip 2: Respond quickly in a crisis

If you can, evaluate the danger the person is in.

Those at the highest risk of suicide will have a specific suicide plan, the means to carry out the plan, a time for doing it, and an intention to do it.

The answers to these questions could help you assess the immediate risk.

  • Do you have a suicide plan?
  • Do you have what you need to carry out your plan?
  • Do you know when you would do it?
  • Do you intend to take your own life?

Levels of suicide risk

If the person doesn’t have a plan, then they are low risk. 

Someone at moderate risk is the person who may be having suicidal thoughts but has not considered their plan. 

A person who has suicidal thoughts and a plan is high risk.

Finally, a person who has suicidal thoughts, a plan and tells you that they will attempt to take their own life is at severe risk. 

If you believe a suicide attempt seems imminent, call a local crisis centre, dial 911, or take the person to an emergency room.

Suicide Prevention Tip 3: Offer help and support

If someone you know is suicidal, the best way to help is by offering a listening ear.

Let them know that they are not alone and that you care. Don’t take responsibility for healing them.  You can offer support, but you can’t make a suicidal person get better. They must commit to personal recovery.

It takes a lot of courage to help someone who is suicidal, so don’t forget to take care of yourself. Find someone that you trust to talk to about your feelings and get support of your own.

Try and get a suicidal person the help they need.  Call a crisis line for advice and referrals.

Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by.

Your support is vital to ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track.

Support for people feeling suicidal

If you’ve had suicidal thoughts, or you suspect that a work colleague, friend or family member might, further help and support is available.

Samaritans offers a 24-hours a day, 7-days-a-week support service. Call 116 123.

Papyrus is a dedicated service for people up to the age of 35. Call 0800 068 41 41.

Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is a national helpline for men. Call 0800 58 58 58.

You can also call the free NHS 24-hour national helpline for health advice and information. Call 111.

For support on managing employees mental health and advice on how you can build suicide prevention into your own workplace wellbeing strategy, contact the team at Fusion today.

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Categories: Choices for WellbeingHealth & WellbeingMental HealthOccupational Health

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