TIPS ON HELPING SOMEONE WHO IS SUICIDAL
1) Show that you care about the person
When someone feels suicidal they often feel very alone and isolated. Showing affection and letting the person know that you care about them helps you to link with them and provides an opportunity for them to talk. This is a very important part of support as it can help to break down any barriers and can help to stop the person from continuing to withdraw. It is common for someone who is depressed or suicidal to push loved ones away, making it difficult for you to connect with them. This is not an indication that they do not want or need your support but rather part of the process of withdrawal.
Emotional support for the person is also a very important part of this support. This involves understanding, patience, and encouragement. Engage them in conversation and listen carefully. Do not belittle the feelings they may express, but help them to think realistically and offer hope.
2) Encourage the person to seek professional help
Many of the barriers to seeking help can be addressed by a support person. Helping them to identify where to get additional support/treatment such as professional intervention and accessing that help is one of the most important roles of a carer. It can include:
Assisting them to make an appointment with a psychologist or other mental health professional,
Encouraging the person to keep their appointments,
Going with them to see a health professional or assisting with transport, and
Following up with them to check on progress.
Once they are accessing help or receiving treatment you may continue to encourage them to stay with treatment until symptoms begin to lift, or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs.
3) Be gentle with the way the person is feeling
Can they tell you why they are feeling the way they are feeling? It is likely that the person will state of a number of problems that they feel are contributing to their distress. Help them to focus and encourage them to deal with the most pressing issues first. Consider the here and now – what’s the worse thing that’s happening. Don’t deny the way the person’s feeling. It may not be the way that you would react to a situation but it’s about them and how they’re feeling.
4) Support the person to find solutions to their problems
Show the person some positive ways you problem solve and help them to solve their problems. This is an important part of providing support. Problem solving involves helping the person to make a careful assessment of the problems, prioritising and deciding which problems can and should be tackled first and then working out a plan. A step by step process can be useful. For some people, taking one small positive step forward can be a huge achievement. Make sure you praise and encourage any attempt they make to move forward towards positive change.
It is very important to include the person in the problem solving process. This gives them a sense of control, offers hope and also teaches a skill that can be used in the future when things get difficult. Remember that it is their problem and not yours. Try not to take in on as your own.
5) Assist the person re-establish social networks and interests
Often a depressed and suicidal person becomes withdrawn and isolated and distances him or herself from friends, family and peers and community members. This isolation increases the sense of being alone, of being a failure and of being worthless. An important role of supporting is not only encouraging the person to seek professional help but also to support the person to link with social and community networks. It is often helpful to invite them to participate in activities, particularly those you know once gave pleasure, such as hobbies, sports etc. Try to be gently insistent if you invitation is refused, but do not push them to undertake too much too soon. A depressed person needs distraction and company, but too many demands can increase feelings of failure.