Suicide can affect each and every one of us, causing a ripple effect on an entire society. Not only does it impact the victim’s family, but the effects are far reaching for friends, work colleagues and the community as a whole.
When a person is considering suicide, they often have these thoughts because they truly believe there is no other way out. They believe the world would be a better place without them and see suicide as an end to their emotional turmoil.
Suicide often comes as a shock to many people involved, leaving them wondering if there was something they could have done to help. Perhaps the person was acting differently, had withdrawn from social outings, or was making plans (like creating a will) which are all signs that can indicate their plans. Perhaps they were displaying emotional outbursts, sleeping all the time, or participating in self destructive behaviour like drugs and alcohol. These are all warning signs that someone could be suffering and if you notice some of these patterns, it is important to take action.
Knowing what to do if you think someone in your life is considering suicide doesn’t come easily. It’s an extremely difficult topic to talk about and a lot of the time the person who is struggling may become withdrawn and cut off friends and family. However, there are some actions you can take which could be instrumental in saving a person’s life:
TALK TO THEM
This doesn’t have to be an awkward or blunt conversation, instead come from a place of love and support. Start by letting them know that you are concerned about them, and that you are there to help. If the topic of suicide does come up in conversation, this doesn’t mean it will make them take action. Talking about suicide openly, including discussing any plans they've made, reassures them that this is ok to talk about and you are willing to help. Remember, a lot of the time people contemplate suicide because they believe it’s their only remaining option. You are there to let them know that it’s not.
CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WISELY
Listen more than you talk. Ask questions and be genuinely interested in what the person is saying. It isn't your responsibility to fix this but to allow the person to open up and feel able to talk about something that they've likely not spoken about before. Do not tell them they are selfish or weak for thinking the way they are, or that they should have done more to help themselves. Blaming statements can make someone feel guilty and isolate them even further. Avoid dismissive statements like ‘I know how you’re feeling’ or ‘you’ll be fine’. These statements can seem like you’re unconcerned and dismissing the severity of how they’re feeling.
SHOW THEM THEIR OPTIONS
A person’s reasons to be contemplating suicide can be varied, so try to understand what the key triggers are and if you might be able to help. Offer to be there both practically and emotionally, however most importantly, show them the professional options available. Start by suggesting a visit to a GP or getting in contact with support services like Lifeline and Beyond Blue, who offer free over the phone support. Places like Lysn offer psychological services which can be accessed from the comfort of their home, via phone or video chat. These services can all be instrumental in providing support and tactics to help a person improve their situation. If the situation is urgent, or they have already made a suicide plan, call 000. In these scenarios it is always better to err on the side of caution, so if you’re concerned, make the call.
Never assume that because you’ve let the person know about their options for help that they will seek it out. There might be some practical things you can do to improve their situation, such as helping them to move house, or bringing them food, depending on what their needs are. Try to support with any life changes, but most importantly, assist them to access professional help. You might call the doctors with them, or set up appointments on their behalf, or even attend with them. Find out what they would be comfortable with, and be sure to assist however you can.
TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
Having conversations about suicide and witnessing firsthand the suffering of someone close to you can feel overwhelming and difficult. These are conversations you have probably never had before and they are hard conversations to have. Reach out to your own support networks and make sure to take care of yourself. Speaking to Lifeline or a service like Lysn may also help you cope.