How to help someone who is suicidal
Written by Chloe Hall
Saturday the 10th of September is World Suicide Prevention Day.
The World Health Organisation estimates that globally almost 800,000 people die by suicide every year, that’s approximately one every 40 seconds. And there are many more who attempt to take their own lives. Behind this figure are the families and communities profoundly affected, so suicide remains an international challenge given the millions of people whose lives are impacted.
Preventing suicide is a concern of global importance and remains a crucial public health issue. While trend lines move up and down, every year the data confirms that in this country, men in their forties are the most vulnerable group when it comes to suicide.
Suicide is preventable
Suicide is preventable. Many people who contemplate suicide do not want to end their life, they want to stop the emotional pain which they feel. Experts and support organisations confirm that there is nothing inevitable about suicide, and they all recommend a simple strategy to facilitate prevention: seeking help.
Of course, getting help can be challenging for a number of reasons. Many people find it especially difficult to open up and talk through anxieties or worries. Their self-confidence can be shattered by serious setbacks such as job loss, a relationship breakdown, bereavement, debt, or addiction, and things can seem to unravel quickly.
Many people turn to friends or family, but it can difficult or frightening to talk about suicide. The important thing to remember is that talking about suicide does not increase the risk of suicide. There are ways anyone, regardless of training or experience with mental health issues, can help someone who is feeling suicidal.
How to help someone who is suicidal?
Sometimes when we listen to someone talk about difficulties, we can be tempted to immediately start offering solutions. The temptation to help, or deny problems, or make light of things can often seem the only way forward, to avoid having to hear something deeply worrying and difficult, especially if it’s coming from a loved one.
At moments like these, people need sympathetic, non-judgemental support. Yet recognising that someone has reached a moment of personal crisis, let alone implementing appropriate support, is not easy.
You should give your full attention and listen without trying to offer solutions. Sometimes people just need to be heard.
Simply giving our full attention and listening, can stop people from feeling isolated, and can give opportunities for emotional release. Unhurried listening also builds trust, let them talk at their own pace.
It’s also important to remind someone who is suicidal that help is readily available in a variety of forms.
If someone is feeling suicidal, it can help to direct them to professionals, people who are trained to deal with suicidal thoughts.
The first steps are often to seek professional advice from a GP. However, if talking to a professional seems too challenging there are alternative places to begin, such as online contacts at an organisation like the Samaritans.
Our blog offers advice on a variety of mental health issues. Sometimes just reading through and getting some extra information may be a positive first step.
Our mental health services directory, Wellbeing West London, can help you find mental health services near you.
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, our Safe Space service may be able to help. We provide an alternative to A&E for people experiencing a mental health crisis, and can give advice, support, or just listen.
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Posted on: 9th September 2022