Such a loaded word…laden with a sense of stigma. One of the main goals when speaking with suicidal individuals and their loved ones is to decrease the feeling of shame that surrounds this act. As crisis line specialists, we believe that suicide can be prevented.
If you suspect that someone you know may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, it’s okay to ask, “How are you doing?” or “Are you alright…you seem kind of down.”
These are invitations that enable the suicidal person to discuss what he is experiencing. This may be the first time that another person may have been so direct with him. The opportunity for the individual to discuss possible suicidal thoughts may serve as a catharsis and offer true relief.
Listen to what the person at risk is saying. Pay attention to the emotions which are swirling under the words. Don’t try to fix her. It’s fine to say “I care.”
Familiarize yourself with some of the warning signs of suicidal behavior: Ongoing depression, a sense of hopelessness, financial and/or relationship issues and a family history of suicide. Other risk factors may include substance abuse and/or gambling.
Encourage your loved one to ask for help; you may find that you also need some emotional support. Asking for assistance may be the first step down the path of breaking the isolation that so frequently is associated with suicidal thoughts and behavior.
At Oregon Partnership our Crisis Line Specialists are trained to offer specific assistance for those folks who are struggling with the act of killing themselves. One goal is to develop rapport as well as an emotional connection. We are willing to walk down that path of darkness and despair…listening to all the pain and hopelessness that the individual is experiencing. Understanding the person’s current situation is essential to being able to offer meaningful assistance.
Hopefully, a safe plan will be developed and appropriate resources will be offered. The person will be offered a follow-up call, most likely scheduled for the same day, in order to ensure that the caller is still safe. This follow up call is significant…it continues to carry the message that we care.
A myth exists that if you talk about suicide to a depressed person you may be “planting the idea in the person’s mind.” In my experience this is completely untrue. If an individual is feeling hopeless and is struggling, chances are good that she has considered this ominous option. So, please don’t be afraid to address the situation.
You could be saving a life.
Oregon Partnership Lifeline: (800) 923-HELP or (800) SUICIDE