September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. During this time, many organizations, The Kim Foundation included, encourage all to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness of warning signs, and connect those in need to resources. Something you can do at any moment of the year is talk with someone you care about.
Having a simple conversation with someone you know or love who is demonstrating concerning behavior can make all the difference. Many times, someone who is dealing with suicide ideation is feeling sidelined. Here are a few pointers on how to talk to someone who needs it the most:
- Ask the question – “Are you thinking about suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” A constant myth exists around how talking about suicide will put the thought into someone’s head. Recent studies have actually shown an inverse relationship between the two – the more we talk about or acknowledge suicide, the lower the rates of suicidal ideation (Dazzi, et al.).
- Do your best to not appear shocked if someone discloses to you they are thinking about suicide. Talking about suicide can be uncomfortable, but having a conversation with someone in crisis could save their life.
- Suspend all judgment. When you really listen to someone and hear their problems for what they are to that person, it shows them that you care. You don’t have to agree, but you do need to listen and understand that this situation/event/problem is a big deal to them.
- Use many open ended questions to allow the person to talk. Some examples include: “How is everything going for you right now?” “When did you start feeling like this?” “What can I do to support you?”
- Let that person know they are not alone in this. Reassure them you want them here and you want to get them the right help.
- Stay with the person until the right help is available. You do not have to have all the answers and you do not need to be a licensed professional. But, you can make sure the person in crisis is not alone and wait until help arrives, whatever that may look like (parent, teacher, coach, therapist, medical professional, etc.).
- Follow up! Check in with them to see how things are going. This is a great time to see if there is more you can do or update them on things you said you would do to help. This follow through shows that you care about their well-being and want to see them healthy, both mentally and physically.
If you are concerned about someone and do not know what to do, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Call at any hour of any day and a trained counselor will be available to talk with you or your loved one.
For more information on talking points or other suicide prevention topics, visit www.13minutes.org.