Actions to Take to Prevent Suicide

Adolescents who are suicidal need someone who will talk with them openly and honestly, who will listen attentively, and who will find them the help that they need. In order to help prevent a suicide from occurring, one must be informed of the questions to ask when suicide is suspected, the dos and don'ts of interacting with a person contemplating suicide, and who to contact for further assistance.

When signs of suicide have been observed, it is important to reach out to the person to find out what is going on. A good way to do this is by asking questions and listening attentively without making judgments. The goal is to get the person who may be considering suicide to talk about his or her problems out in the open. Specifically, there are four important questions that need to be asked directly: (1) Are you thinking about killing yourself? (2) How do you plan to do it? (3) When do you plan to do it? and (4) Where do you plan to do it? Contrary to popular belief, such candor will not give a person dangerous ideas or encourage a suicidal act. In fact, these questions not only allow the helper to assess the danger so she knows who to contact for further assistance, but also give the helpee permission to talk about suicide and the thoughts and problems that may be occurring. Such action can be a relief to individuals who are suicidal because it shows that someone is taking them seriously.

Some important information to remember when helping a person through a suicidal crisis is to remain calm even if what is said is shocking, to remain positive and never give up hope, and to know one's own limits and when it is time to seek outside help. One should never make promises to keep a person's suicide plans a secret. Instead, the helper should suggest that the suicidal person turn to help from trusted adults (e.g., parents, teachers, coaches), crisis hotlines, or trained professionals (e.g., counselors, therapists, doctors). Most importantly, one should never leave an individual in crisis alone, and one must act quickly if the person appears to be in danger.

See also: MENTAL DISORDERS; PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT

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