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What is the prevalence of suicide, and what are the risk factors for suicide?
Although there is no one best way to approach a situation where suicide may be a possibility, the following is a list of possible guidelines:
- Treat the person as a normal human being.
- Don’t consider the person too vulnerable or fragile to talk about the possibility of suicide. Raise the subject yourself by asking the person directly. For example, “It sounds like you are feeling depressed. Have you been thinking about harming or hurting yourself or committing suicide?”
- Show the person you care about them even if you don’t know them very well.
- Help the person talk about and clarify the problem. Those who are depressed may have difficulty pinpointing the problem and may feel frustrated and confused.
- Listen carefully. People who are considering suicide are in mental and/or physical pain, although you may not be able to guess the type of pain or the source of the problem. Be there to help the person talk about the issue. You don’t need to fix the problem.
- Suicide is often viewed as the final solution to an overwhelming problem. The person who is depressed may have difficulty sorting out alternative solutions to the problem(s) he/she faces.
- Encourage the person to seek professional assistance. Crisis hotlines are available in many communities. If an immediate danger of suicide exists, do not leave the person alone. If the crisis seems to be improved for the moment, be sure you have a plan of action regarding professional help before leaving the person. Have the person promise to call you before doing any harm to him/herself. Offer to accompany him/her to see a mental health professional.
- If a friend refuses help, you may need to contact someone close to him/her such as a family member to share your concerns.
- Maintain contact with your friend.
What is your reaction to the list? Can you think of any other suggestion(s)? Have you ever been placed in a situation where someone you knew was suicidal?