September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month —a time to raise awareness of this stigmatized topic. The goal of this month aims to shift public perception around suicide, spread hope, and share vital information with those affected by it. It is important that individuals, friends, and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and seek help.
Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. In most cases, suicidal thoughts should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.
If a close friend or loved one is considering suicide, there are steps you can take to help!
Asking the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct, unbiased manner, can open the door to talk about their emotional pain and can allow everyone involved to see what next steps need to be taken. Other questions you can ask include, “How do you hurt?” and “How can I help?” Do not ever promise to keep their thoughts of suicide a secret. Help them focus on their reasons for living and avoid trying to impose your reasons for them to stay alive.
This could mean being physically present for someone, speaking with them on the phone when you can, or any other way that shows support for the person at risk. Make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person. If you are unable to be physically present with someone with thoughts of suicide, talk with them to develop some ideas for others who might be able to help as well. Listening is very important during this step – find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.
KEEP THEM SAFE
Have they already done anything to try to kill themselves before talking with you? Does the person experiencing thoughts of suicide know how they would kill themselves? Do they have a specific, detailed plan? What’s the timing for their plan? What sort of access do they have to their planned method?
Knowing the answers to each of these questions can tell us a lot about the imminence and severity of danger the person is in. The Lifeline can always act as a resource during these moments as well if you aren’t entirely sure what to do next.
HELP THEM CONNECT
Helping someone with thoughts of suicide connect with ongoing supports (like the 988 Lifeline) can help them establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Additional components of a safety net might be connecting them with different supports and resources in their communities.
-Come up with a safety plan: If they start to experience significant, severe thoughts of suicide come up with what to do in those crisis moments. A safety plan can also include a list of individuals to contact when a crisis occurs.
Make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Leave a message, send a text, or give them a call. The follow-up step is a great time to check in with them to see if there is mo
re you are capable of helping with or if there are things you’ve said you would do and haven’t yet had the chance to get done for the person.
This type of contact can continue to increase their feelings of connectedness and share your ongoing support. There is evidence that
even a simple form of reaching out can potentially reduce their risk for suicide.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact the National Suicide Crisis line at 988