September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Friends and family of someone in crisis are often caught off-guard, unprepared and unsure of what to do. Learning how to #BeThe1To help can save a life.
- Talk openly and honestly. Ask questions such as, “Are you thinking about suicide?” This shows that you’re open to talking in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Asking in this direct way can create effective discussion about their emotional pain and can allow everyone involved to see what next steps should happen. 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.
• Listen. Take their answers seriously, especially if they mention that they are experiencing thoughts of suicide. Listening to their reasons for being in such emotional pain, as well as listening for any potential reasons they want to continue to stay alive, are both incredibly important when they are telling you what’s going on. Help them focus on their reasons for living.
- This could mean being physically present for someone, speaking with them on the phone, or any other way that shows support for the person at risk. Do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. Listening is again very important during this step. Find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.
- Increasing someone’s connectedness to others and limiting their isolation has shown to help prevent against suicide and lessen thoughts of action. Do not ever leave someone who is thinking about suicide alone.
Keep Them Safe:
- Confirm their 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 detailed plan? What’s the timing for their plan? What sort of access to do they have to their planned method (i.e. firearm, knives, or medication)? Knowing these answers can tell us a lot about the level of danger the person is in. If they have immediate access to a firearm and are very serious about attempting suicide, then extra steps may be necessary like calling the authorities or driving them to an emergency department.
Help Them Connect:
- Support (like the Lifeline, 800-273-8255) can provide a safety net for those moments someone finds themselves in a crisis. Additional supports and resources may exist in their communities. Explore some of these possibilities with them. Are they currently seeing a 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?
- Safety plan. This can include ways for them to identify if they start to experience significant, severe thoughts of suicide along with what to do in those crisis moments. A safety plan can also include a list of individuals to contact when a crisis occurs. The My3 app is a safety planning and crisis intervention app that can help develop these supports and is stored conveniently on your smartphone for quick access.
- After completion of these steps, 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 more you can help 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.
Like any other health emergency, it’s important to address a mental health crisis like suicide quickly and effectively. If your friend or family member struggles with suicidal ideation, let them know that they can talk with you about what they’re going through.
Suicide is preventable.
Learn more at: https://www.bethe1to.com/