Often when we realize someone is struggling with thoughts of suicide we panic and think we have nothing to offer the individual. The first step to supporting any individual is to just Be There. Your presence and your willingness to see and understand what is going on is enough. Be brave enough to ask the question, are you thinking about suicide and know what to do when the answer is yes.
- People think about suicide for different reasons.
- If you are worried someone may be thinking about suicide, talk to them. Ask them about how they are feeling.
- Talking to someone about suicidal thoughts does not make them more likely to end their life.
- You can help someone who is feeling suicidal by listening without judging them.
- You can support someone to thinking about other options to deal with their feelings such as accessing support anonymously, through a web service, or through their doctor.
- Small gestures such as saying hello or asking how a person is today can sometimes make a big difference to how someone is feeling.
- Never promise to keep things a secret, offer to be discreet instead.
- If someone is in crisis you need to get help from mental health services or emergency services.
- Get the individual to take one action. Some options are creating a safety plan, calling a help line together, making a doctors appointment, or going to a walk in clinic.
- If the individual tries to end their life, this is not your fault.
- Helping someone with suicidal thoughts is likely to have a big impact on you. Talk to your doctor or seek counselling for yourself.
Put On Your Air Mask First Before Helping Others
When supporting someone else it is important to set healthy boundaries to help you make decisions based on what is best for you and not just the people around you. This doesn’t mean that you don’t care about the person you are supporting.
The very fact that you have set boundaries, allows you to keep from getting compassion fatigue so that you are at your best when your support is truly needed.
How To Set Healthy Boundaries
Define your boundaries.
Communicate what you need.
Don’t over explain your reasoning.
This is How it Could Look:
I am here to listen to you right now but I need you to put the number for the distress line in your phone in case you need help after 9p.m. I put away my phone so I can sleep. If you call after 9p.m. I will miss your call and will be unavailable to help you if you need support.
When you are worried about someone set the next check in time during the current discussion. “I will give you a quick call tomorrow morning at 8”. “Let’s meet for coffee again tomorrow afternoon.”
Know when your compassion fatigue starts showing. Things like having less patience, missing meals, having trouble paying attention are just a few examples, what are your signs? If you don’t know, ask someone close to you. This is a sign you need to take a step back and let someone else step in. If you are supporting someone who is struggling with mental health or suicide getting a doctor involved as soon as possible and encouraging the individual to create a safety plan that encourages several people or supports that are available when you are not, is important.
Looking for More Helpful Resources?
Youth & Adult Supports
Suicide in youth is the 2nd leading cause of death. For a handful of youth suicidal ideation starts very early. If a youth in your life needs help, reach out for support as early as possible. Life for everyone is challenging and there are times when, even as an adult, we lose our sense of purpose, we suffer losses, and lose hope.
In these times of struggle reach out for support.
Crisis: Call 911
If the individual has a plan or is about to hurt themselves or someone else, call emergency services. They are available any time of day and will connect the individual with a hospital or emergency care service.
211 Can help you find support groups, walk-in clinics or other resources nearby and can connect you to hotlines.
Get coping strategies and local resources.
Crisis Services Canada
Kid’s Help Phone
First Nations & Inuit Hope for Wellness
Some app examples are:
Kid’s Help Phone
Always There APP
Anxiety, Depression & Stress
-Stop, Breathe, Think