In parts 1 & 2 we looked at signs of suicide & how to talk to a suicidal person. In addition to contacting a suicide hotline such as (in the Chicagoland area) 630-482-9393, calling 911, or going to the nearest emergency room, here are some additional ideas:
Some people try to differentiate between a “cry for help” and a “serious” suicide attempt. It can be difficult for the average person to tell the difference, and the difference may only be relevant to a mental health professional. The bottom line is you should approach both a “cry for help” and a “serious” attempt the same way: as a real threat that requires immediate attention. Always take every suicide threat seriously.
In addition to taking threats seriously, it is also important to make the person comfortable. Never take away something that is preventing the suicidal person from committing suicide. Even if that is your suicidal daughter’s “bad influence” boyfriend, whom you hate. Even if that is your suicidal husband’s alcohol. Even if that is your suicidal sister’s cocaine. Even if that is your suicidal friend’s religion, with which you don’t agree or believe. Never take away something that is preventing the person from committing suicide. If that is the only thing keeping the person from going over the edge, leave that thing be. You can argue about all that stuff later, but only if the person is alive! (Note: if the person’s intent is to OD on drugs, then you will have to take away the drugs to prevent suicide).
You should also have the suicidal person sign a “non-harm” contract. This written contract needs to stipulate that the person will not harm himself, will contact you before attempting to harm himself if he is contemplating this action, and it should state that the person is loved, respected, and cherished. You can type this, or in a pinch, you can just hand-write it. Both the suicidal person and you should receive a copy of it. If necessary, just handwrite two copies of it, and sign both. The suicidal person and you both need to print your names and sign it. You should add your contact phone number. You may add additional phone numbers of concerned parties who care about the suicidal person, so he can contact someone in case you are not immediately available. Make sure to inform these additional persons about the nature of the situation, the contract, and why their number was added to it. When people sign a contract–even suicidal people–they will generally honor the contract. Hopefully, the contract will prevent the person from attempting suicide, or if he feels he cannot stop himself from doing so, he will at least contact you first, so you have the opportunity to talk him out it, or get him professional help or emergency intervention as appropriate to the situation.
In summary, this 3-part series has discussed recognizing the signs, such as sadness, giving away prized possessions, & making statements about “giving up” on life. We discussed talking with the person and asking if he has been thinking about suicide. Follow up with questions from the suicide lethality checklist. Take away the means. Get him help immediately when appropriate. Take every threat seriously. Don’t take away something that is keeping the person from committing suicide, even if you see that thing as an additional problem. Have the person sign a non-harm agreement.
I hope this suicide prevention series has helped you feel empowered and more able to function when someone you care about is suicidal.
I’d like to see everyone stay alive and well in 2014. This means you, Slammers! Never give up on life. All pain is just the universe giving you opportunities to learn important spiritual lessons. You can handle it. And if you need help, ask for it. I hereby give you permission from the universe to do so. None of us is a superhero. We’re all human. Everyone has weakness, pain, fear, bad days, and we all sometimes need to ask for help. You don’t have to be strong all the time; just ask for help when you’re not feeling strong–from a friend, your significant other, a counselor, a minister, etc.
You are loved and cherished. I am so grateful you are on this journey with me. Many blessings…
This “Suicide-Prevention Series” brought to you by Slam Horse