How to Help Someone in Emotional Turmoil

Sunday, September 10, 2017 marks World Suicide Prevention Day and the start to the National Suicide Prevention Week in the United States. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States (CDC) and the rate is rising. It can be difficult to know what to do when you think someone is struggling with thoughts of suicide (also referred to as “suicidal ideation”). I hope after reading this post you have a plan in place to be able to help someone who may be in the most emotionally vulnerable time in his/her life.

Initiate Conversation
Always remember the first step is the hardest but most important part. You must ask the person directly about the person’s thoughts. You can say, “Are you considering ending your life?” Or, “I heard you say you wish could make your pain go away. Are you thinking about killing yourself?” It is better to be direct and therefore capitalize on an opportunity to help discourage someone from making an irreversible action.

Provide Support
First, make sure to listen to what the person is saying to you. Allow yourself to be open and supportive. Valid the person’s feelings. (For example, “It must be very painful to feel this way.” “I am sorry to hear about how much you are hurting.”) If possible, you can help the person identify people who care about the person. Let the person know that you care about what happens to the person.

Second, do what you can to keep the person safe. Move the person from life-threatening areas and remove life-threatening objects. Such things include, bridges, bodies of water, sharp objects, ropes, cords, belts, sheets, curtains, medications and drugs, high areas, windows, etc. Make sure the person is not left alone until you can get the person help from a trained and qualified professional.

Get Help
Assist the person in getting emergency services as soon as possible. A person reporting suicidal ideation needs to be under 24-hour watch to be sure he/she is not able to do any harm to him/herself. This can be done in any of a number of ways:

  1. Take the person to the nearest emergency department or walk-in psychiatric care facility.
  2. Call for emergency services.
  3. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  4. Text the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  5. Call a trusted adult (such as family, friend, pastor/priest/minister, or mental health professional, school guidance counselor, etc.).

Stay Involved
Be sure to follow up with the person after the person is released from medical/psychiatric care. Returning home often means returning to similar factors leading to thoughts of suicide in the first place. Helping the person to know you care (by checking in on them) can reduce the likelihood of the person attempting suicide in the future.

Is there someone you are worried about right now? Reach out. Don’t wait.

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