One of the greatest fears in acting to help someone that might be thinking of suicide is knowing what to say or worrying that raising the issue might put ideas in their head. Research shows that talking about suicide doesn’t increase the risk and, in fact, connecting to someone that cares can make all the difference.
Here are 3 easy steps to support someone that might be thinking of suicide:
Ask directly, “Are you thinking about suicide?” Asking shows you care and asking directly shows you are willing to talk about it.
If they say “yes”, then listen and give them the time to talk through their feelings. Don’t feel the need to jump in and give advice or present an immediate solution. Show you care by giving them the time to express their feelings. Stay with them and/or contact others that can be relied on to stay with them.
A crisis line is a good place to start. The Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566. For local crisis lines across Canada click here.
Other options for getting help include doctors, (school) counsellors, social workers, community health centres, family, friends, teachers or religious leaders. If the situation is an emergency and a life is at risk, call emergency services at 911.
In some situations, the person may refuse help. You can still make others aware of the situation. Again, calling a crisis line is a good start to talk through the options.
Recognizing the signs that someone is thinking of suicide
High risk signs for suicide can include talk or threats to harm oneself, looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online for materials or means, or talking or writing about death, dying or suicide.
Some of the less obvious signs that could mean someone is at risk are:
- Increased substance use(alcohol or drug)
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness; no sense of purpose in life
- Anxiety, agitation or uncontrolled anger
- Unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
- Feelings of being trapped– like there’s no way out
- Withdrawal from friends, family and society
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Dramatic mood changes
If you are supporting someone that is thinking about suicide, it is important to also be taking care of yourself. Getting help for the person at risk is a big step and recruiting friends and family to help support the person will help with any pressure you may be feeling. Remember that crisis lines are a good resource, not just for people thinking of suicide, but for those providing support and anyone with a concern about suicide.
Want to Lean More?
Contact your local crisis centre about suicide prevention training programs. Crisis centres offer gatekeeper programs that educate and strengthen communities. Commonly offered suicide prevention programs include:
ASIST is a two-day, skills-building workshop that prepares caregivers of all kinds to provide suicide first aid interventions.
SafeTALK is a three- to four-hour training program that prepares helpers to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and connect them to suicide first-aid resources.
For information on local crisis centres and community workshop programs, click here.
If you or someone you care about needs assistance or help related to suicide, call us 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566, or text 45645 between 4pm-12am ET daily.