There’s no easy way to ask someone if they're suicidal. But, at the same time, skirting around the issue won’t help.
The best approach is to be sensitive yet direct by asking questions, such as:
- are you thinking about hurting yourself?
- are you thinking about dying?
- are you thinking about suicide?
Remember, mentioning suicide to someone who’s already thinking about it will not encourage them to go through with it.
If you see someone you think might need help, trust your instincts and start a conversation. You could help save a life.
Don't know what to say?
- Don’t ever be put off approaching someone who you think may be at risk of suicide because you don’t know what to say.
- One of the best things you can do for a person who may be feeling suicidal is to simply encourage them to talk about their feelings.
- Make sure you really listen to what they’re saying.
- Talking about someone’s problems is not always easy and it may be tempting for you to try to offer a solution. But often the most important thing you can do to help is listen to what they have to say.
- It’s also important that the person who needs help doesn’t feel judged by those who are trying to support them. For instance, comments such as “Don’t you think you might be drinking too much?” can sometimes make the situation worse.
- Reassurance, respect and support are what can help during these difficult periods.
- Asking questions can be a useful way of letting a person remain in control while allowing them to talk about how they’re feeling.
- Try not to influence what the person says, but give them the opportunity to talk honestly and openly. This is helped by asking open-ended questions such as “Where did that happen?” and “How did that feel?”, encouraging them to keep on talking.
- On the other hand make sure you avoid statements that could possibly end the conversation, such as “I know how you feel” and “Try not to worry about it”.
Getting professional help
- Although talking to someone about their feelings is invaluable in helping them feel safe and secure at the time, these feelings may not last.
- It will probably require long term support to help someone overcome their suicidal thoughts.
- This will most likely be easier with professional help, for example, sharing your concerns with a GP.
- Not only can a professional deal with the underlying issues behind someone’s suicidal thoughts, they can also offer advice and support for you.
- If there is an immediate danger, make sure they are not left on their own.
This advice is taken from Zero Suicide Alliance. Visit their site to download their advice booklet and other resources.
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