To help those with suicidal thoughts, where do you start? What do you say? Who do you talk to? How do you make it more than a one-off?
What can you do? If you are struggling, take 40 seconds to kickstart a conversation with someone you trust about how you are feeling. To help others...
The IASP suggests that listening with compassion, empathy and without judgement can help restore hope. We can check in with them, ask them how they are doing and encourage them to tell their story. This small gesture goes a long way. So:
How to help - starting the difficult conversation: the Samaritans (www.Samaritans.org or 116 123) have some excellent tips on how to speak to someone who you suspect may be feeling suicidal - and where to get help. If you’re worried about someone, try to get them to talk to you:
How do I start a conversation with someone I’m concerned about? You might feel you don’t know how to help someone, because you don’t know what to tell them or how to solve their problems.
You don’t need to be an expert. In fact, sometimes people who think they have the answers to a problem are less helpful. Don’t forget that every person is different, so that what worked for one will not always work for another:
Questions that help someone talk through their problems instead of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are the most useful. Questions like:
Fortunately, there is lots of help out there if you or your pal are struggling. These include:
Respect what your friend tells you, don’t pressure them: if they don’t want help, don’t push them.
Sometimes it’s easy to want to try and fix a person’s problems, or give them advice. It’s usually better for people to make their own decisions. Help them think of all the options, but leave the choice to them. Being there for them in other ways, e.g. through socialising or helping with practical things. These can also be a great source of support.
If you say the wrong thing, don’t panic. There is no perfect way to handle a difficult conversation, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it didn’t go as well as you had hoped. If you feel able to, put things right: ‘Last week I said … and I realise now that was insensitive so I’m sorry. What I meant to say was …’.
Show you understand: ask follow-up questions and repeat back the key things your friend has told you, using phrases like ‘So you’re saying…’, ‘So you think…’ Look after yourself and talk to someone too. Hearing someone else’s worries or problems can affect you too.
Take time for yourself to do the things you enjoy and if you need to talk, find somebody you trust to confide in.
Be careful not to make promises to people you may not be able to keep; this could relate to someone telling
you they are experiencing abuse. Don’t take on so much of other peoples’ problems that you yourself start
Getting help in an emergency - if you are feeling suicidal:
If you don’t feel you can keep yourself safe right now, seek immediate help:
• Go to any hospital A&E department.
• Call 999 and ask for an ambulance if you can’t get to A&E.
• Ask someone else to contact 999 for you or take you to A&E immediately.