Signs to stop and support someone with suicidal thoughts

Signs to stop and support someone with suicidal thoughts
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A leading expert in mental ill health has shared her advice on how to best spot the signs of someone experiencing suicidal thoughts.

On the eve of World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10), counsellor Lynn Crilly explained how there are often “subtle” warnings that a person may be about to die by suicide.

Lynn, who has published a series of books on the mental ill health, said: “Most people who feel suicidal do not want death, they just want the pain to stop. The most powerful thing you can do is be there for them, showing that you care and that their life matters, and helping them find an alternative way forward.”

Outlining the most common signs and how best to react – she issued the four pieces of advice, Lynn says:

  • Most people who attempt suicide will give some clue or warning, so it is vital to take those clues seriously, even if they are said casually. They may talk or write about death or harming themselves, or they may seek out things that could be used to take their own life, such as weapons or drugs.
  • “There may be more subtle signs: hopelessness, self-loathing and self-destructive behaviour should all be taken seriously. Be alert also to those who seem to be getting their affairs in order or saying goodbye to people as if they will not be seen again. It sounds obvious, but all too often the clues are missed.”
  • “If you spot any of these signs and are worried about someone you care about, it is natural to question whether you should say something. But the best way to find out is to ask them. Showing you care will not push someone towards suicide, rather it will give them an opportunity to voice their fears and feelings which could in turn help them to see that there is another way forward.
  • “While talking is crucial, so is listening. Allow your friend or loved one to unload their despair and listen without judgement, remaining calm and accepting of how they feel. Reassure them that help is available and tell them how important they are to you. Avoid arguing with them or appearing shocked.

Lynn continued: “Help them to find professional help and be proactive in keeping in touch with them – do not wait for them to call or expect them to ask for help.

“Instead, be in touch often and continue to be supportive in the long term, even if the immediate crisis appears to have passed. Help them to come up with a plan to follow if they feel suicidal thoughts descend.

“If you are worried that there is an urgent danger that they may die by suicide, phone their doctor or dial 999. If you can help the person you care about, find support, you may start the process of them beginning to turn their life around.”

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