Lets talk about suicide
Would you know what to do if you thought someone was feeling suicidal? Not many of us would. Visyon was founded 24 years ago in response to a number of adolescent suicides in our hometown, and every day we work with young people who are feeling suicidal. 6,188 suicides were recorded in the UK in 2015. It is the single biggest killer of men under 45, and yet suicide is utterly preventable. It’s possible to save lives if only we all learn how we can reach out to each other.
So, what are the signs that someone’s feeling suicidal?
If someone says that they feel hopeless, or indicates that they feel worthless or a burden to others, they may be feeling suicidal. They may say something like, “I can’t carry on”, “there is nothing to live for anymore” or “people will be better off without me”. They may tell you that they’re struggling to cope, or that they feel trapped. You could get the feeling that they’re saying goodbye or they could be making arrangements for after they’re gone, such as giving their things away.
Danger signs could be dramatic changes in mood, loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed, agitation, or an increase in drug and alcohol use or risk-taking behaviour. They may behave aggressively or stop taking care of themselves. They could be tired, be having problems sleeping, or sleeping too much. They may withdraw from friends and family. If they have a previous history of suicide attempts, or suicide in the family, they are more at risk.
What to do if someone is feeling suicidal?
If you suspect someone may be feeling suicidal, you should take your suspicions seriously. Don’t ignore it. Ask them if you’re right to be worried. Most people find it difficult to be direct in these circumstances, but if someone is feeling suicidal, they are likely to be grateful that you’ve noticed. They may feel relieved that you are giving them permission to talk about it. Remember, if somebody is feeling suicidal, you’re not going to make them feel worse. And don’t leave it in the hope that somebody else will deal with - you could be the only person who has the opportunity to help them.
Ask them how they’re feeling. Get them talking. Ask them directly if they are thinking of suicide, or harming themselves. Listen to their answers and accept that their feelings are real for them. Never dismiss how bad they are feeling.
Listen out for any language about something positive in their lives, now or in the future. Build on these things, getting them to talk more about them. Tell them that there is help for them, and that they deserve help. Let them know that suicide is not the only option. Talk about things they can do to get more of the positive things in their life.
It’s important to establish how safe they are now. If you are not convinced that they are safe, you should make a plan to keep them safe. They may not want you to tell anyone, but keeping them safe is the priority so you may need to break their confidence. Take them to A&E, or phone the emergency services and stay with them until they arrive. If you’re speaking to them on the phone, try to arrange for somebody else to stay with them, or keep them talking until help is with them.
If you feel that they are out of crisis, help them make a plan to get help and stay safe in the future. Encourage them to talk to the people in their lives who can support them, and to visit their GP as soon as possible. Help them to make a list of things that make them feel positive, and plan how they can incorporate more of these things into their day. Help them make a plan for what to do if they feel suicidal again, for example to go to A&E or to phone a friend and ask them for help. Make a plan with them to meet or talk again soon to check if they are sticking to their safety plans.
Look after yourself. Supporting someone who is suicidal can be difficult and distressing. Take some time out afterwards, and get support. Talk to someone about what has happened and how you feel. Be proud that you did what you could. You may have saved a life!
Visyon highly recommends this free online training course from the Zero Suicide Alliance.
It only takes 20 minutes to complete, 20 minutes that could help you to save a life. Please complete the training, and tell your friends and family about it. Together we can prevent suicide.