When a friend or loved one is feeling suicidal, this can be a frightening experience. There is no fool-proof formula to prevent a suicide, but the following are steps are what most suicide prevention organizations recommend.
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- Be aware of the warning signs of suicide: depression, final arrangements, giving away of possessions, sudden elevated mood, self-destructiveness, and talk of suicide.
- Be calm and accepting.
- Give them your full attention; show that you take their feelings very seriously. A suicide attempt is never just a ploy for attention. It is a cry for help.
- Do not be afraid to ask if they are thinking of suicide. You are not giving them ideas that they haven't already had.
- Ask if they have a plan and a means to carry out a suicide. Those who have a definite plan are in the most immediate danger.
- Don't leave them alone. If you must leave, contact someone you trust to take over.
- Listen attentively and encourage them to share what they are feeling. Allowing them to vent will lessen some of the pressure they feel inside.
- Avoid the urge to problem-solve or offer judgment on how bad things really are. How serious the problem is is less important than how serious it feels to them.
- Keep them talking. As they tire, they will lose momentum and be less likely to act on their feelings.
- Offer them a reason to go on in whatever form they will accept. Love of their children, hope that they can get well, even fear of a failed suicide attempt: all can help them hang on a bit longer until they get the treatment they need.
- Encourage them to seek professional help as soon as possible. Let them know that depression is an illness and that it is very treatable. Help them make arrangements and take them to their appointment if necessary.
- If you feel they are in immediate danger, don't hesitate to contact 911 or other emergency number in your area. It is not a betrayal of friendship to get your loved one help. They may feel angry at the time, but this will pass.
- There is no right or wrong thing you can say. Just be yourself.
- Seek support for yourself afterwards to talk about your own feelings.
- Places you can take a suicidal person for help: a crisis center, ER, mental health center, or their own psychiatrist or family doctor.