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If you know someone who might be thinking about suicide, you can help them first just by listening. Very often, people who think suicide is a choice for them feel like they have no other options, like they have no control over their lives, and that no one cares about them.
Listening to someone can:
- Show that you care
- Give them a greater feeling of control
- Help them feel connected to someone else
Asking about suicide can be scary and hard, but it is very important. It is the only way to find out how much danger someone is in. It also lets the person you’re concerned about know that you’re a safe person to talk to. Many people are afraid to talk about suicide. They fear that others will react with blame, fear, panic, or guilt. But it is often a great relief to someone thinking about suicide to know that you have noticed their pain. And although many people don’t believe this, asking about suicide will NOT suggest the idea to someone or encourage someone to kill themselves.
After you have listened for a while, ask the person you’re concerned about if she or he is thinking about suicide. Here’s how to ask.
Ask the question directly:
- “Do you sometimes feel so bad that you think of suicide?”
- “It sounds like things are pretty rough right now, and I’m concerned about you. Are you thinking about killing yourself?”
- If the answer is “Yes”: Stay calm. Even if this makes you feel scared or mad, don’t let it show. Keep listening and letting the person know that you care. Ask her or him:
- “Have you thought about how you might do it?” [Is there a plan?]
- “Do you already have that? Can you get it?” [Are the means (gun, pills) available?]
- “Have you decided when you will do this? Do you know where?” [Has a time and place been set?]
If the answer to all of these questions is “Yes”, there is a good chance the person will attempt suicide. But even if there is no plan, get help.
If the answer is “No”: Keep listening. Don’t tell the person you’re glad or relieved that they’re not thinking about it -their feelings may change, and then they will feel uncomfortable talking to you.
Anyone can feel suicidal, but the feeling doesn’t last forever. Getting help for someone who is feeling suicidal can save their life. Never try to help a suicidal person by yourself. Even if you are a professional helper (doctor, counselor, etc.), don’t go it alone. A suicidal person needs a lot of attention and support – more than any one person can give. The more helpers the better. Get help from:
- A counselor or therapist
- A teacher
- The local hospital emergency room
- A guidance counselor
- A nurse or doctor
- Samaritans, or your local crisis center
You should talk to any of these helpers yourself to get support and advice, but it is most important that the suicidal person talks directly with one or more of these kind of helpers. Some things to remember:
If the first helper you try doesn’t give you the help you need, try another one.
If the suicidal person won’t agree to get help, tell someone anyway. It is better to have she or he be mad at you, but alive because you got help.
If the person you’re concerned about has already set a time and/or place for a suicide attempt, or if you think for any reason that she or he wants to attempt suicide soon, keep these tips in mind:
- Stay calm. This can feel scary or out of control, but the person you’re helping feels more out of control than you do and needs you to be calm.
- Don’t leave the suicidal person. If you’re not with them, go get them or find someone who can stay with them. Most people won’t attempt suicide unless they’re alone.
- Call 911 or another professional who can help immediately. Remember: don’t leave the person to make this call.
If you are interested in becoming a Samaritans’ volunteer, click here.