How to Help
24/7 WNE URGENT Counseling Line: 413-310-5389
What to Ask and How
Questioners should use plain and direct language, which is most effective in eliciting honest and clear responses. For example, the questioner may ask:
- “Have you wished you were dead or wished you could go to sleep and not wake up?”
- “Have you been thinking about how you might kill yourself?”
- “Have you taken any steps toward making a suicide attempt or preparing to kill yourself (such as collecting pills, getting a gun, giving valuables away, or writing a suicide note)?”
If you want to learn more about how to ask questions go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fx3N3uDUQbo.
Listen carefully to what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research suggests acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal thoughts.
Keep them safe
Reducing a suicidal person’s access to highly lethal items or places is an important part of suicide prevention.
What does it mean to “keep them safe”?
- Calling for help is an important first step in keeping someone safe.
- While this is not always easy, asking if the at-risk person has a plan is important. If possible, keep them away from the method or means that they planned to use. Sometimes this means asking them to walk to another room or allow you to put an item or items in a cabinet or drawer until help arrives.
- Stay with them until additional support arrives.
Help them connect
Call the 24/7 WNE Counseling Line at 413-310-5389 or help make a connection with a family member, friend, spiritual advisor, or mental health professional.
Staying in touch after a crisis or after being discharged from care can make a difference. Studies have shown the number of suicide deaths goes down when someone follows up with the at-risk person.
Myth Busting about Suicide
“Asking a depressed person about suicide may put the idea in their heads.”
Asking does not suggest suicide or make it more likely. Open discussion is more likely to be experienced as relief than intrusion. Depressed students who get screened are less distressed and suicidal than high-risk students who are not screened (Gould et al, 2005)
“There’s no point in asking about suicidal thoughts… if someone is going to do it, they won’t tell you.”
Many people will be honest when asked, even if they would never bring it up themselves. Many give hints to friends or family, even if they don’t tell a counselor or clinician. Ambivalence and contradictory statements and behavior are common.
“Someone that makes suicidal threats won’t really do it; they’re just looking for attention.”
Those who talk about suicide or express thoughts about wanting to die are most at risk of a real suicide attempt. 80% of people who die by suicide gave some indication or warning first.