September 18, 2020

You Can #BeThe1To Help Someone Who is Contemplating Suicide

You can #BeThe1To help someone who is contemplating suicide. The five action steps listed below are effective ways of communicating with someone who may be suicidal. These methods are supported by evidence in the field of suicide prevention and can make a real difference to someone who is struggling.

  1. Ask:  Ask the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” This communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Studies show that asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicides or suicidal thoughts.
  2. Be there: Increasing someone’s connectedness to others and limiting their isolation (both in the short and long-term) has shown to be a protective factor against suicide. While being physically present may not be an option right now, there are still many other ways to be there for someone, including speaking with them on the phone/video phone, by text, through various online platforms. Establish the frequency in which the person would like you to check in with them, and then stick to that schedule.
  3. Keep them safe: Find out a few things to establish immediate safety. 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 to do they have to their planned method? Put time and distance between the person and their chosen method, especially methods that have shown higher lethality (like firearms and medications).
  4. Help them connect: Help them connect with ongoing supports to establish a safety net for those moments they find themselves in a crisis. Explore some of these possible supports with them – are they currently seeing a mental health professional? Have they in the past? Is this an option for them currently? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help?
  5. Follow up: After your initial contact with a person experiencing thoughts of suicide, and after you’ve connected them with the immediate support systems they need, make sure to follow-up with them to see how they’re doing. Setting aside a time and date that you will follow up can provide something to look forward to and sends the message that you care.