useful tips and insight

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This month as we nationally recognize September as Suicide Prevention Month, we thought it would be a good opportunity to address some of the lesser-known facts when it comes to suicide. There are often warning signs before someone commits suicide. While many of these signs are unseen, there are also many that are giveaways that something is going on. Sometimes, when someone is suicidal, they even tell someone close to them. Today we will address the threat of suicide that has been verbalized.

The threat of suicide is always something to be taken seriously, especially when someone verbalizes an intention to harm themselves. Let’s be realistic – there probably aren’t many who speak casually of harming themselves unless they have actually thought about it. One of our counselors, Steve Simmers, recently experienced a situation of a suicide attempt with a client while he was with them. Here’s how Steve handled the situation:

“This particular client has a history of suicidal ideation and attempts. One evening, I was completing a session with the client, and upon accompanying him to his residence, he asked me inside. Once we entered his residence, he began to verbalize suicidal thoughts. I immediately surveyed his residence to determine that there was nothing to pose an immediate danger to him. After taking visual inventory of the room, I began to process what he had told me while I maintained constant communication with the client. The primary focus during our conversation was to validate his suicidal ideation, and provide re-framing and re-direction of his beliefs and thoughts that were causing his distress”.

Steve’s situation could happen to any of us, even if we are not a counselor. It’s important for us all to be equipped with knowledge of how to handle a situation similar to his so that we make the right decisions, and hopefully, save someone’s life. The following is a list of helpful tips and suggestions to help handle the verbalization of suicidal thoughts:

  1. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide – Being direct is very important. When someone close to you or that you know verbalizes any suicidal ideations, make sure you dialogue with them. Sometimes it helps to uncover why they feel the way that they do, which can help in getting someone further help that they may need. Most importantly, talking with them and addressing the issue of suicide directly lets them know that you are concerned for their well-being. If the individual is considering suicide because they don’t feel like anyone cares, this can show them that you do.
  2. Be willing to listen. Allow them to express their feelings, and accept them – Many times, those who are suicidal feel as though no one understands why they feel the way that they do. Being willing to listen to them may allow them to deal verbally with some of the issues that have led to contemplating suicide.
  3. Be non-judgmental; don’t debate whether or not suicide is right or wrong – It is hard to feel understood in a struggle when someone is ready to discount your feelings each time you speak because they don’t agree with you. You want to draw the person to you with care and trust, not alienate them further due to judgment.
  4. Become available to show your interest and support – Addressing the issue of suicidal thoughts may very well take more investment than a well-intentioned 20 minute sit-down. If you have begun to establish yourself as a figure of support for someone contemplating suicide, be prepared to make yourself available for support and discussion whenever they may need it.
  5. Don’t dare him or her to do it – Sometimes the only reason why someone has not gone through with their plans is because they are waiting on someone or something to pull them back from the edge. Don’t push them closer to it!
  6. Don’t act shocked – Reacting in shock and awe at news that someone you know is contemplating suicide may not always be something that motivates them to act, but it doesn’t help the individual in seeking comfort by speaking with you about what they are struggling with. Try to be as understanding as possible.
  7. Seek support – Don’t keep what they have told you a secret. While tips in addressing this issue are certainly helpful, understandably, many of us are not qualified to give them the counseling or mental health support they often require. Seeking out an agency that provides Crisis Intervention, Crisis Stabilization, or Suicide Prevention services is always a good idea.
  8. Take action and remove harmful objects – If someone has verbalized thoughts of suicide, it is very possible that they have thought about how they might end their life. Take care to remove items that they may be able to use to harm themselves, such as guns and stockpiles of medicines and pills.

AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF SUICIDOLOGY Suicide Prevention Is Everyone’s Business.” Suicide Prevention Is Everyone’s Business| American Association of Suicidology. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Sept. 2013.