Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How to Help: Suicide

       As a disclaimer, I am by no means a professional (is there such thing as a professional talker-outer-of suicide?). These are simply ideas that have worked for me in the past. Any site can tell you the signs of a suicidal friend and that you should tell and adult right away.  What no one will tell you though, is what to do that moment when a close friend or family member discloses to you that they want to die. There’s no guidebook for such a situation, though it seems there should be.  So here’s my best advice for that terrifying moment when you’re the last person standing between a friend and their possible death.

So let’s say your friend called you one night in tears, saying they were thinking about committing suicide. 

1.       Take a deep breath. The worst thing you can do is panic. As scared as you may be, they are way more scared and you need to be the strong one right now.

2.       Realize the urgency of the situation without becoming overwhelmed. Yes, a close friend or family member might not survive the night, but they did come to you for help.  This means they still have hope.  Keep hope alive, and you keep your friend alive.  It’s as simple as that.

3.       Ask when and where they are going to kill themselves.  This gives you an idea of the time range you are dealing with and also lets your friend know that you are taking them seriously.

4.       If they are planning on committing suicide that night, drive to their house while talking on your cell phone.

5.       Listen to them talk. Be sympathetic and supportive. Keep them talking. (Think about it: Talking = alive) Talk until they calm down.

6.       Don’t argue with them.  Don’t make them angry and not want to listen to you – or worse, hang up. Don’t tell them that they have so much to live for. They’re not going to believe you. They’ve already thought this through and they feel like no, they do not have that much to live for at all.

7.       Don’t try to guilt them out of it by telling them how much it would hurt their family and friends. Many suicidal people believe their family and friends do not care at all.

8.      Ask them what they are looking forward to next week, next month, next year, next 10 years.  Ask them about their goals, their bucket-lists.  Your goal here is to find them a reason to live. If they cannot think of a reason, make it up.  Decide that you two are going to do something fun next week that you’ve never done before to give them something to look forward to.

9.      Don’t hang up the phone without making them promise to go right to sleep.

10.  Right after hanging up the phone, tell an adult what happened.

So there you go: how to talk someone out of suicide in 10 steps. The key is keeping hope alive. Hope is the last thing to go and when all hope is lost, life follows suit. The fact that they told you they were considering suicide as an option actually means that you are halfway there: You don’t have to give them hope because they already have a little left. You just have to keep the flame alive.

Okay, so on a completely unrelated topic, I have big news: I might become visible soon. I’ve made a really great friend over email recently and he’s basically convinced me to take my goal of changing the world a step further: by presenting my project in front of my school. In my presentation I will explain what I do to change the world and inspire others to do the same. I've emailed my school principle with this propasal and I am excited to hear her reply. Though I’m quite comfortable being the center of attention, I can’t help but think why on earth I would pour my heart out to my whole high school chancing utter embarrassment and public humiliation. But I know I cannot live my life like that.  I would do anything to make this world a better place.  If it means telling my story to my high school, so be it. Got Fear? Bring it on. Because fear stops meaning so much when you’re twice as determined.

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