I’ve been meaning to do this post for several days, but I kept doing it and re-doing it because my mind has been so foggy. Now that my mind is more clear, I want to present some tips to you on suicide prevention and what you should do if you discover someone who has suicidal thoughts WITH a plan in mind. I wish I could write this post on the warning signs of someone who is suicidal, but, contrary to popular belief, a lot of suicidal people do not present warning signs.
A lot of these pointers are from personal experience, because I’ve been in two situations where I have had to take action in order to prevent a suicide.
- Talk to the person. Once you know the person is entertaining suicidal thoughts, get to the root at why the person is doing this. Is there something stressful going on in his/her life? Does he/she struggle with an undiagnosed mental illness or a mental illness not being treated with medication? Or is he/she not taking the meds prescribed? These are important to know, because these answers can help you talk the person into a more rational mindset. Remember, those entertaining suicidal thoughts are not in a rational mindset. These answers are also important to know because you have it in you to be that silver lining for the person you are trying to save.
- Remain calm. One of the worst things you can do is lose your composure when you’re trying to be there for someone who is suicidal. This person does not need those types of reactions–sobbing, for instance–because he or she is already feeling bad enough and needs more comfort than you do.
- Do not judge. This ties in with remaining calm. Don’t judge the person’s feelings. Don’t judge the reasons why he/she is feeling suicidal. Do not tell the person that he or she is being selfish.
- Put safeguards in place. Talking to a person is a great way of insuring this person is safe, but what are you supposed to do when you’re no longer talking? At this point, you can’t trust this person isn’t going to follow through with his/her suicidal thoughts. You can be one safe guard by going over to this person’s house and remaining there until you are absolutely certain this person is stable. If you can’t do that, contact family or friends and alert them of the situation so that way they can handle it. When I was talking to a suicidal friend, one safe guard I put in place was putting campus security’s emergency number into my phone. I also contacted the dean of students to alert her of his suicidal thoughts. I also told him to meet me somewhere on an appointed day, as he already told me he wasn’t going to do anything for another week, because he wanted to see if things could be improved during that week. Calling 911, to me, should be a last resort for those cases where you know that person is in immediate danger. I didn’t believe my friend was in any immediate danger. But this is a judgment call, a critical one. You can also take the person to the emergency room, if need be.
- Call a crisis hotline or encourage this person to contact one. Sometimes you might have no clue what to say or do because knowing someone is suicidal can be distressing. So you can call a crisis hotline in order to receive advice about what you should do. You might even be able to have the crisis hotline call the person dealing with suicidal thoughts.
- What if this person is hours away from you? This is a very difficult case, but I was able to save someone’s life who did live hours from me. It took me four hours to be able to do so. I had no clue where he lived, but I had to keep talking to him. I was also talking to an online crisis chatline, trying to figure out what steps I should take. I already had his number, and I even informed him he should call a crisis chatline, but he wouldn’t. So I input his number into Google and brought up the number for his parole officer. Dead end. The crisis chatline person basically instructed that I needed to somehow pull his address from him. Luckily, he brought up a friend he was having issues with. I offered to call this friend to set things straight. So I did and asked for his address. She gave it to me. I can’t remember why she couldn’t do anything, but I took charge from there. Now that I had his address, I had to figure out how to call 911 from there. Luckily the crisis chatline volunteer took over from there, and the situation was resolved. But what should you do in a case where you can’t get this person’s address? This is a difficult situation, because not even I have an answer. A suicidal person is suicidal for a reason, and you need to get right down to the reasons in order to know what to do from there. Sometimes you can’t do anything but talk.
- Don’t dismiss suicidal threats. This isn’t just from people you know, but from people you don’t know, too. If you’re online and find someone who is suicidal, don’t ignore that person. There is little you can do to ensure his/her safety, but sometimes reaching out alone can help that person live another day. You can talk to this person and present this number: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). You are not responsible, but if you know there is something you can do, you have a moral obligation to implement actions that can help. If you find out this anonymous person has friends on his/her social network, message them, too.
These are all that I can think of right now, but if you have some pointers, too, leave those in the comments for anyone who hasn’t a clue on what to do when confronting someone who is suicidal.