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Suicide Prevention

This content mentions sensitive content around suicide. Please read with care. If you’d like help, support details are listed at the bottom of this page.

What are suicidal feelings?

Suicide is the act of intentionally taking your own life.

Suicidal feelings can mean having abstract thoughts about ending your life or feeling that people would be better off without you. Or it can mean thinking about methods of suicide or making clear plans to take your own life.

If you are feeling suicidal, you might be scared or confused by these feelings. You may find the feelings overwhelming.

But you are not alone. Many people think about suicide at some point in their lifetime.

What does it feel like to be suicidal?

Different people have different experiences of suicidal feelings. You might feel unable to cope with the difficult feelings you are experiencing. You may feel less like you want to die and more like you cannot go on living the life you have.

These feelings may build over time or might change from moment to moment. And it’s common to not understand why you feel this way.

How you might think or feel:

  • hopeless, like there is no point in living
  • tearful and overwhelmed by negative thoughts
  • unbearable pain that you can’t imagine ending
  • useless, not wanted or not needed by others
  • desperate, as if you have no other choice
  • like everyone would be better off without you
  • cut off from your body or physically numb
  • fascinated by death.

How to help someone who is suicidal?

Listen non-judgementally.

Sometimes when we listen to someone talk about difficulties, we can be tempted to immediately start offering solutions. The temptation to help, or deny problems, or make light of things can often seem the only way forward, to avoid having to hear something deeply worrying and difficult, especially if it’s coming from a loved one.

At moments like these, people need sympathetic, non-judgemental support. Yet recognising that someone has reached a moment of personal crisis, let alone implementing appropriate support, is not easy.

Active Listening

You should give your full attention and listen without trying to offer solutions. Sometimes people just need to be heard.

Simply giving our full attention and listening, can stop people from feeling isolated, and can give opportunities for emotional release. Unhurried listening also builds trust, let them talk at their own pace.

It’s also important to remind someone who is suicidal that help is readily available in a variety of forms.

If someone is feeling suicidal, it can help to direct them to professionals, people who are trained to deal with suicidal thoughts.

The first steps are often to seek professional advice from a GP. However, if talking to a professional seems too challenging there are alternative places to begin, such as The Hub Of Hope, CALM and The Samaritans.

The Ripple Effect

“A suicide is like a pebble in a pond. The waves ripple outward.”

The first “waves,” close by, are big, and as they move outward, they get smaller and smaller. The reach of the pebble’s waves is much greater than the size of the pebble itself.
When someone dies by suicide, the people impacted most dramatically are those closest to the person who died: family, friends, co-workers, classmates. As a result, the people who interacted regularly with the individual who ended their life will miss the physical presence of that person and typically feel the loss most intimately.

But, those people represent only the first wave, or the initial level of impact. Those people who are members of an individual’s community, such as members of a faith community; teachers, staff and other students in a school; or service providers, may also be affected by a suicide.

Some of these people may feel the impact in a way that feels similar to those closest to the person who has died. In a situation where the individual has struggled openly with mental health concerns, those who knew of the struggle will feel the pain of the loss—likely wondering if they could have done more.

People who may not have even personally known the individual who died can also be impacted. Like emergency medical personnel, law enforcement, clergy and others who respond and provide support to the family and community, either at the time of death or afterward.

Ultimately, in the way that a pond is changed because of a pebble, an entire community can be changed by a suicide. According to a 2016 study, it is estimated that 115 people are exposed to a single suicide, with one in five reporting that this experience had a devastating impact or caused a major-life disruption.

Supporting those bereaved by suicide

Providing support to those bereaved by suicide is key to helping them to cope and recover – survivors often express a strong sense of isolation and feeling alone at a time when they are hurting and vulnerable.

You may not have been affected by the death yourself or you may be both grieving yourself and having to support others at the same time. It is important to look after yourself so that you can support others.

Sometimes the bereaved find it difficult to accept help, they may push you away and become more isolated as a result. Be persistent, thoughtful and patient – as the months pass they will need more and more support, not less and less.

It is always difficult to know what to say to support people who are grieving and this seems to be especially difficult when talking about suicide. The bereaved themselves may not be comfortable talking about it. It is a subject which still carries a considerable amount of stigma.

Don’t avoid making contact because you don’t know what to say or because you are worried about upsetting them; they have already been through a terrible experience and avoiding them now only adds to their hurt. Remember that communicating isn’t just about words – making eye contact, offering a hand or a hug can convey far more support than well-rehearsed words. Once you open up the opportunity, you may find you do not need to do much talking – simply listening to the bereaved person and giving them the space to talk is exactly what is needed.

Here are some ways that can make it easier to talk with people about what has happened:

  •  Allow the person to be in the moment and experience what they are going through – don’t try to distract them away from thinking about the person who has died or focus on the future. Even though is it painful, they need to experience it.
  • Be reassuring and supportive – let their words be your guide. They have the right to feel the way that they do.
  • Don’t try to explain or rationalise what has happened. We sometimes do this as a way to try and lessen the sense of distress but the bereaved need to be supported as they work out their own answers.
  • Focus on the loss of the person rather than how they died. When the moments are right, share positive memories – this can be very comforting
  • Avoid the term “committed suicide” as this has the connotation of a criminal act – “took their life” or “died by suicide” are better phrases.
  • Be prepared – they may be experiencing a bewildering array of powerful emotions all at once. They may need to repeat themselves or go through patterns of feelings several times in order to make sense of them. They may contradict themselves or act out of character, avoid making judgements about how they are behaving or what they are saying.

Sometime people make remarks, perhaps well intended but which can be very upsetting – for example “at least you have other children”, “you’ll meet someone else”, “I know how you are feeling” or “you need to move on”.

In addition to talking with and listening to the bereaved person, there are other ways that you can show your support:

  • Ask what you can do to help. It may help to make specific offers – focus on what obviously needs to be done such as babysitting, making a meal, shopping, cleaning, making phone calls etc. Routine tasks may be neglected by those who are grieving. As time progresses there may be other activities you can support them with particularly if they may be having trouble thinking clearly in e.g. arranging the funeral, reviewing finances etc.
  • Attend the funeral and any other occasion such as a memorial service. Your presence will make a difference.
  • Ask if they would like your support during the investigation and inquest process – this is often one of the biggest concerns for those bereaved by suicide.
  • Keep any promises that you make – disappointment can destroy the best of intentions.
  • Remember that the grieving and recovery process is long and complex – don’t stop with offers of support once the funeral is over. Even the odd phone call can go a long way to make people feel that they still matter.
  • Support them in taking things at their own pace – there will be plenty of other people around them who may be urging them to “get back to normal”.
  • Remember key dates such as anniversaries and holidays – get in contact and ask if they would like to do something or if they would like some company on these days.
  • Be aware of some of the support services that are available to them. Never force them or sign them up for something without their permission but if the time is right and you think it is appropriate you can make them aware of the possibilities.
  • Be aware of prolonged symptoms of grief or depression and encourage them to seek help from their GP if you are concerned.
  • Be aware of your own energy, emotions and health – supporting someone else can be tiring or challenging – particularly if you are grieving yourself. Ensure that you find appropriate support for yourself – we can only help others if we look after ourselves.

Content from here has been taken from Mind, SOBS and NAMI