- Make safety a priority: People who have attempted suicide are at high risk to try again immediately after a "failed" attempt. Do your utmost to keep the person safe. If your relative is in hospital, consult with those caring for them there and be sure that there is a well thought-out discharge plan and that family members or close friends are involved in it. Ensure that you and your family are honest with the person. Trust is one of the most important values between people.
- Ways to talk to the person: Be straightforward. Talk honestly and do not beat around the bush. Speak with goodwill and kindness.
- Instill hope: even when you yourself are feeling low. Some of the things to say will be similar to those things you say when the person is at risk for suicide. Give the person a future. Work on things in the future life of the family that will give the person pleasure and a reason to live
Suicide & Suicidal Behavior
1 AnswerThe skills we need for approaching a person who attempted suicide are ones that do not generally come easily to us and it is useful to know how you might handle this.
1 AnswerIf your relative with serious mental illness (SMI) has shown suicidal tendencies in the past, it is likely that she/he may show these again in the future. For this reason you should be as prepared as possible. The family crisis plan described here is for advanced planning. Though it is not possible always to forestall suicidal action, the plan may enable quick hospitalization and treatment.
- It is recommended that the whole family, including if possible, the ill person when they are having a good period, have input into the Family Crisis Plan. Write it down in simple language and put it where you can easily find it. Give each member of your support team a copy of the Plan. This work is exhausting. Do not try to work with your unwell relative by yourself. Involve your family and any mental health professionals who care for your relative.
- Watch out for continuing symptoms that signify unrest or anxiety in your relative.
- Note the names and telephone numbers of those willing to keep the person and the family safe in crisis situations.
- Note down how hospital procedures work; know the names and telephone numbers of the professionals you need to call. If your relative is admitted to hospital find out the name of the doctor in charge of your relative and be prepared to talk to him in a calm and business-like manner to make sure you are kept informed.
- If your country has mental health laws, learn about how these laws will affect you if your relative needs involuntary hospitalization or if s/he attempts suicide.
- Learn in advance whether a doctor will be able to admit your relative for treatment as a willing or unwilling (involuntary) patient. Learn the best way to attempt to admit your relative, e.g., through his doctor or through the emergency department.
- Some police forces have emergency task forces that have specialists in suicide available. Find out whether this is available from your police service.
1 AnswerThough you may not be able to control some of the means of suicide, you should be aware of them. Some of these means are listed below.
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- Chemicals: Household cleaning products or pesticides, as used on farms, are common and unpleasant methods of suicide. Pesticides are a significant cause of suicide in developing countries.
- Weapons: Common and easily available means of self harm are: ropes, knives and guns. Families may remove the offending items from plain view so that they are not a temptation. Ammunition should be locked away. In the general community, ropes may not be considered as weapons but they are the most common method of suicide in western nations. Another common method is cutting one's self.
- Jumping or throwing self: People who are reckless or impulsive are at risk for suicide by this means. Whereas the individual needs to think about the method and make a plan if other means might be used, this way can be achieved with very little forethought. Metro or underground train services or high bridges are often chosen as a method. It is difficult to see how family can prevent this type of suicide. It is unwise for a person who is at times unstable to live on an upper floor of an apartment building (block of flats).
- Driving fast and recklessly or carbon monoxide poisoning: Crashing a car at speed gives the appearance of an accident and may remove some of the guilt felt when more obvious methods are chosen. Using the exhaust fumes from a vehicle to induce unconsciousness and death is also one method used. Removing the car keys when other symptoms you recognize as triggers are present will avoid the person starting or using a car.
1 AnswerPeople with serious mental illness who are having ideas about suicide need medical help as well as the support of relatives and friends. It is best to let the person's doctor know in advance of the possibility or likelihood of suicide. This can facilitate admission into hospital care, either voluntarily or through legal means, i.e. using the country's Mental Health Act, if there is one, for someone who will not go willingly to hospital.
1 AnswerHere are a variety of suggestions that may avert a person with serious mental illness (SMI) from committing suicide:
- Call or contact the person's mental health professional immediately and advise them of the urgency of the situation.
- Call your local Crisis Line telephone number if one exists. This is often to be found in the front of the telephone book.
- Ask a close friend of the person in crisis to come and talk with their friend.
- Stay with the person.
- Get a promise not to use alcohol or drugs if these are a factor.
- Give hope: talk about alleviating his/her problems; attempt to ease loneliness and pain; listen rather than talk, using the tips for listening below:
- Do not judge, just listen carefully
- Avoid inserting your own opinions
- Focus on what the other is saying
- Ask questions that involve their thinking and feeling
- Let the other person direct the conversation
- Try to understand the person's perspective, see their point of view
- Keep your focus on the other person and what they are saying
- Actively encourage the person to talk through verbal and non-verbal cues
- Reflect on the essence of what has been said
- If the person has tried suicide before ask how they got through it and what happened subsequently.
- With the person's permission link them to their mental health professional(s): case worker; mental health clinic; family doctor/psychiatrist, as soon as possible.
- Talk about the protective factors: a relative or pet that depends on them.
Draw up a plan, both for the person and for yourself, based on your conversations. Write it down. If it seems appropriate, get the person to write a plan as well. The plans should be signed. The action of writing it is like a contract and may help to avoid any self harm. Keep it simple. The plan(s) will contain:
- Delaying action to give time for the person to reconsider.
- An agreement by the person to certain actions they will take to delay going through with suicidal action.
- Any other material that is relevant to the specific situation (e.g., removal of weapon, keys, etc.)
- Follow up on the plan with regular contact from the family and friends' network that you have developed previously.
- Remove any means of suicide; do this with the person as a sign of their commitment not to attempt suicide that night.
1 AnswerThe following are special interview suggestions for talking with a person with serious mental illness who is about to commit suicide:
- Suicide is a sensitive and personal matter. Talk to the person in private. Give her/him enough time to feel comfortable and to share her/his reasons frankly.
- Do not make judgments about character.
- Do not make reassuring statements without fully understanding the situation because this may make the person feel even more hopeless.
1 AnswerYou must be absolutely sincere in your approach to a potentially suicidal person. Don't be afraid to ask the questions in the list below. From the answers you will establish exactly what the situation is and obtain an idea of what you need to do.
1. Have you a plan to die by suicide? How? And how soon? (The more complete the plan the more likely the person is to act upon it.)
2. What is the pain you are experiencing like? Can we find ways to ease the pain?
3. Are there times when the pain lifts? How do you feel then?
4. Do you have anyone, anything that you can call upon to help you?
5. Have you attempted suicide before?
6. Are you seeing your doctor or mental health worker regularly and often?
4 AnswersIf you are in severe mental pain, and considering suicide, talk to someone. Your life is worthwhile, even if you do not think so at this moment. You have unbearable pain; try to share it with someone right now. Please do not do anything rash.
You need to talk to someone who will understand the extreme distress you are feeling. Tell yourself that you do not need to die now. Consider that you could put it off for a day, or two days or even a week. Confide in a close friend or family member. Phone or meet someone close to you who knows what it is like to think of taking one's life. It may be a nurse or doctor you know.Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
1 AnswerIt has been well documented that front-page suicides reported in the media result in a number of "copy cat" suicides. Many newspapers now report any local suicides on an inside page and avoid tabloid type reporting.
It is best not to discuss in any detail any local event of this kind with a mentally ill relative or within their hearing. By this we do not mean that suicide should not be discussed, but rather it should not be discussed in relation to media reports.
3 AnswersMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answeredHaving thoughts of suicide, unfortunately, is somewhat common, but it is not normal and is the brain’s warning signal to get help now! Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers (car accidents being first). If you are having thoughts of self-harm or considering killing yourself, or even just wishing that you didn’t exist, seek help from a mental health professional immediately--be it a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor--to help you develop stress management strategies and to see if you could benefit from medication. (Of the four types, only a psychiatrist, an MD, can prescribe psychoactive medications.)