SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE (212) 673-3000
The Keys To Effective Suicide Prevention
This overview provides a basic outline of how to respond to a potential suicidal situation based on the Samaritans "befriending" model practiced at our centers throughout the world. To help someone who is experiencing a crisis we suggest following these basic guidelines:
By listening to what the person in crisis has to say and by asking direct and open questions, we show our willingness to talk about anything with that person, including his/her feelings about suicide.
Research suggests that the majority of people who attempt suicide literally do something to let others know their intentions before they act. These "warning signs" consist of personal behaviors, verbal and non-verbal communications, and include but are not limited to:
Most depressions contain some element of grief and/or recent loss(es) tied to death, divorce, separation, broken relationships, personal status, etc. Watch for statements like "nobody cares", "everyone will be better off without me" and "I wish I were dead". Mental and emotional illnesses such as bi-polar disorders are often tied to suicidal feelings.
REMEMBER: The risk of suicide may be greatest as the person's depression begins to lift.
Almost everyone thinks about suicide at some point in their life. By listening and observing the "warning signs" of suicide and asking direct questions, we demonstrate our willingness to talk about anything with the person in crisis, including his/her feelings about suicide. It can be a great relief to the person if his/her suicidal feelings can be brought out into the open and discussed freely without shock or disapproval; it shows that you are taking the person seriously.
If the person has a definite plan, the means are available and the time is set and immediate, you should consider the person to be high risk for suicide.
If a person has expressed suicidal feelings, has a plan, the means available and has a time set, you should always take him or her seriously. If there is any doubt, take him or her seriously. A person who is "high risk" for suicide should not be left alone. Keep talking to that person, stay with him or her or arrange for another party (someone who that person trusts and feels comfortable with) to stay with them.
Most people can be helped in getting through their moment of crisis if they have someone who will spend time with them, listen, take them seriously and help them talk about their thoughts and feelings. Almost every suicidal crisis has at its center a strong ambivalence: "I can't handle the pain anymore," but not necessarily, "I want to be dead forever!" What most suicidal people want is not to be dead but some way to get through the terrible pain they are experiencing and someone they can turn to during those terrible moments of fear and desperation.
At Samaritans we say, "You don't save the life of a person who is feeling suicidal, you help him or her get through the moment."
If a person has taken any action that you believe could be considered life-threatening, don't hesitate to get that person to a hospital yourself (if practical) or call an ambulance or emergency services.
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