There are many reasons why a person may begin to consider suicide and it can often be the consequence of mental ill-health, occurring from depression and anxiety disorders among other afflictions. Suicide may also be the result of other environmental and interpersonal occurrences, which are known as risk factors. Such risk factors increase the likelihood of suicide and should be given due consideration. They include loss, trauma, illness, and isolation.
Identifying these factors in others can be difficult, especially if they are concealed from you. It may not be possible to know if a person has a family history of mental illness or has suffered from abuse during childhood, two significant risk factors for suicide. However, other factors can be more clear, such as a person’s anger, moodiness, or suffering from a physical condition, and they should be treated as factors contributing to potential suicide.
If someone tells you they are suicidal or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, there are many ways you can support them. Importantly, you should keep in mind that simply talking to them about suicide will not further encourage them to take their own life and will, instead, begin to support their recovery.
What To Do
Listening to their thoughts and feelings with sensitivity and consideration is an appropriate beginning. Allow and encourage them to discuss their situation without fear of judgement. Then, in response, ask questions. It is likely that they are feeling separated from the world around them, isolated and alone, which is why building a connection with them and reaching out is an essential first step, reminding them that they have someone else there for them.
Feeding back their conversation is a great way to demonstrate that you are listening. Make a note of key points in your conversation or any upcoming dates mentioned to discuss at a later date. Also, be sure to honour any arrangements made together, so as to ensure they know you are there for them, even if it is only to be a brief meeting.
It can be helpful to minimise issues, striving only to make it through the day. Considering the future or mulling the past can be problematic, leading to greater anxiety or frustration. Instead, look at the most basic and essential issues. Progress is made step-by-step.
Avoid patronising or simplifying the situation with damaging dialogue, such as get over it or cheer up. These are certain to alienate a person and increase their sense of guilt for having such emotions in the first place.
If you identify risk factors in a person’s life but they have not reached out to you to discuss a disorder or suicide, you can still offer support by creating potential avenues for conversation. Using regular greetings and daily moments to ask how are you? can have a significant effect on a person’s wellbeing while also allowing them to communicate with someone before their mental health begins to worsen.
The personal support you can offer is, while valuable, only so effective and a person considering suicide should be encouraged to seek professional support. This can be done with your help, by assisting to arrange a counselling session or even by attending their initial consultation with them.
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