Most people understand that suicide is preventable but do not know how they would act to help someone who is at risk. It is important to note that you do not have to be a trained professional to help someone—everyone plays a role in suicide prevention.
The first step involves reaching out and trusting your gut instincts—if you are worried about someone, take that step. It is a simple act of connection by helping that person feel connected, and it goes a long way in preventing suicide.
Some of the following steps can help:
- Never hesitate to reach out and ask, “Are you OK?”—Suppose you notice someone who is struggling and you fear they may die of suicide or are thinking about taking their life; reach out, check it, and show you care. This is the best form of suicide prevention.
- The average person thinking about suicide often feels trapped and alone. When someone reaches out, it reduces that person’s sense of isolation. Ask questions like “Are you doing okay? Or statements like, “If you need anything, let me know”. These are simple, supportive gestures that have a significant impact.
- Be direct about suicide, and do not beat around the bush. Do not be afraid to ask if the person is thinking about suicide. It is a myth that this will put the idea in their head. Discussing suicide directly and compassionately with the individual is the key to preventing it.
- Continually assess the risk as it presents itself, as suicidal feelings are not always an emergency. Someone may confide in you that they are thinking about suicide; don’t let yourself panic. Not everyone who expresses these feelings needs to be rushed to the hospital.
- Many more people experience suicidal thoughts than those who take action on them, per current research. If you feel an immediate crisis, ask direct questions like “Are you thinking of killing yourself in the next day or so?” or “How strong are those urges?”
- If it is a crisis situation, stick around. Intense emotions that cause a person to act impulsively tend to resolve within 24 to 48 hours. Be there for them, offer social support or medical help. They should not be alone in a time of crisis.
- Ask questions if they have the means of harming themselves at hand and work with them to remove these things. Limiting access to ways a person could harm themselves reduces suicide risks.
- Listen to them, offer hope and help, and find tools and support to help them. The best approach is to listen to what they say and not judge. Do not try to tell them what to do, but instead offer hope and support.