According to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals ages 10-34, the fourth leading cause of death among individuals ages 34-54, and the fifth leading cause of death among individuals ages 45-54. Suicide is a large and growing public health problem. Here are a few tips on suicide prevention from the Suicide & Crisis Center of North Texas:
- Ask direct questions about suicidal intentions. By asking the question directly like “Are you thinking of suicide?” or “Do you want to die?” you are expressing your willingness to talk openly and honestly. Your question will convey that you are willing to listen and that you care.
- Listen to the individual that is in crisis. People in emotional crisis have a critical need to be heard. Nonjudgmental listening is important. Although a topic as serious as may not be easy to talk about, by allowing your friend to talk about their feelings will help breakdown the sense of isolation and hopelessness. Be sure to let the individual do most of the talking.
- Do not warn, threaten, or promote guilt to the individual who is feeling helpless and hopeless enough to want to die. The individual does not need guilt or threats to add to their already intense emotions. Sometimes, our tendency is to offer help in the form of “How do you think your children will get along without you?” or “Suicide is wrong.” Additional guilt and shame only worsens those feelings. Focusing on the person in crisis and communicating acceptance and concern are likely to be more helpful.
- Do not dare someone to do it. Sometimes we do not take suicide threats seriously, especially when we suspect manipulative behavior. Nevertheless, talk of suicide should never be taken lightly. In particular, reverse psychology — i.e., telling someone to do something in hopes they will do the opposite — does not work and can be very dangerous. Never “dare” someone to commit suicide!
- Do not be sworn to secrecy. On occasion, people in crisis, particularly young people and teens, will confide in you and then ask you not to tell anyone. Because that “secret” suggests a special bond between two people, you might be tempted to keep the confidence. Nevertheless, being the only person to know of someone else’s suicidal thinking is difficult. Teens in particular should not agree to keep this kind of secret. Instead, they should seek support from parents and other trusted adults.
- Get help. The emotional crisis and suicidal thinking of a loved one or friend are too great to manage alone. Learn what resources are available in your area. Contact agencies that specialize in crisis intervention. Involve another trusted adult, counselor, minister, or mental health professional. It is important that you, the helper, have adequate information and caring support as well.
For more information on suicide prevention, visit www.cdc.gov or www.sccenter.org.