Suicide Prevention: Tips & Strategies

Instructor: Gaines Arnold
This lesson discusses the ways that people can take action when they see a person in need of suicide prevention. It also suggests strategies that would help either an individual or a community address the problem of suicide.

When a Friend Needs Help

A friend is normally the life of the party, but now she is sitting in the corner letting all the action happen around her. She used to spontaneously dance until she got everyone else acting just as freely and silly as she was. Now, she still goes to the parties, but she sits with her head down, hoping that they will end soon. Even more concerning, she has started giving away cherished possessions to friends, and she sometimes talks about how much better it would be for everyone else if she were not around anymore.

You know she's depressed and that she needs someone to help, but she doesn't seem to respond like she used to when friends try to get her to engage. The problem is that whether you notice a distinct change in behavior or not, no one wants to admit that a good friend or family member may be contemplating suicide--ending their own life. Another issue is that you just don't know how to handle it. How you can best help this person at this point? What strategies will help someone who seems to be thinking about suicide realize that there are better ways to cope with even the most difficult problems? Are there some tips to helping her get back to the happy, vivacious friend she was?

How Does a Friend Or Family Member Help?

Most people don't want to meddle. When someone is obviously feeling down about something, most will try to lift their spirits but back off if their efforts are rejected. Although it is wise to honor another person's wishes, if they seem to be thinking about suicide, you need to intervene, or step in and help. But, how?

  • When your friend thinks that suicide is the only option, it may be because she has tried to reach out but feels that no one is receptive. Her problem may seem petty to you, but it is obviously immense to her. Make sure that you empathize, and don't negate her feelings in any way.
  • Most people don't want to pry into someone else's inner life. But your friend is in need of someone to talk to. Don't let your fear of being a bother overcome your need to ask about her thoughts of suicide.
  • Professional counselors realize that what most people need is someone to listen without an agenda. It's best to actively listen by asking questions and using empathy to understand what your friend is going through.
  • Talk to her about seeing someone who may be able to help her more than you can. A professional such as a school counselor, a therapist, a pastor…someone who has experience with this issue and can provide her with some help.
  • One last tip. If she is having active suicidal thoughts and tells you how she is going to commit suicide (she has a plan), don't leave her by herself. She needs you to keep her safe right now.

These are all great tips, but the best one is to make sure that you treat her like you would want to be treated. She needs your support right now, not your judgment. She needs someone who will actively listen. She also needs to be guided toward a professional who can help her even more.

Some Strategies to Help Prevent Suicide

In a way, suicide can be seen as an easy way out or the ultimate coping mechanism. When life gets too tough, some people may think that if you truly check out one time, all the pain will be over. To help prevent this type of thinking, there are some strategies that have proven effective.

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