Suicide – Start The Conversation!
September 8, 2016
I remember the first time I learned about suicide. I was in middle school and one of the boys in my neighborhood hung himself. It was a very difficult thing for me to wrap my mind around at that young age. Equally confusing was the secrecy around the topic. People only spoke about it the event in a whisper, if they spoke about it at all. My life has been touched my suicide many times since then. Each time still brings confusion, sadness and some of the stigma remains.
I am not sure I will fully ever understand what must go through the mind of the individual who commits suicide. I realize suicide is a complex behavior with multiple contributing factors including biological, psychological, sociological and spiritual. Ultimately, the causes of suicide are multi-determined. This complexity can make suicide prevention difficult. As a mental health professional I have learned and witnessed that talking about suicide, asking about suicidal thoughts, actually saying the words out loud can save lives. Research indicates that those who are at risk for suicide are more likely to seek help from friends and family than from medical or mental healthcare professionals (Barnes, Ikeda, & Kresnow, 2001).
Talking to a friend or family member about their suicidal thoughts and feelings can be extremely difficult for anyone. But if you’re unsure whether someone is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing that you care. In fact, giving a suicidal person the opportunity to express his or her feelings can provide relief from loneliness and pent-up negative feelings, and may prevent a suicide attempt.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
- I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
- Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
- I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
Questions you can ask:
- When did you begin feeling like this?
- Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
- How can I best support you right now?
- Have you thought about getting help?
What you can say that helps:
- You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
- You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
- I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
- When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.
– Michelle Watters, LMHC, Director of Spiritual and Health Integration, Hillcrest Family Services