Saturday, February 25, 2012

When Someone You Know Is Suicidal...

Since I work in the field, I'm occasionally asked for advice about from people dealing with someone in their lives who is or might be suicidal.

If such is the case, and you're in Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), I encourage you to conact the Distress Line (780-482-HELP (4357)). The Support Network (780-482-0198) also offers programs for people who are dealing with losing someone to suicide or dealing with someone who is frequently suicidal. You can also find a page with some facts and myths around suicide here.

That said, there are a few general points that come up often so I'm going to address them here. This isn't meant to be advice for your situation, and it isn't gospel. It's also not intended to be a complete exploration of the topic. Again, for more detailed information or help with your SPECIFIC situation, contact the Distress Line (780-482-4357).

Recognize Your Limits . It's a sad fact that if someone really really wants to die, sooner or later they'll find a way to do it. When someone we care about commits suicide, people often blame themselves or wonder what they could do differently. Or when dealing with someone who is frequently suicidal, some think if they hit on just the right strategy or say the exact right thing, that person will change their mind.

It's not the case. Ultimately, it's up to the suicidal person to choose life.

If you want to help them find those reasons to choose life, to provide support, or to offer help, good on you. If you're going to make that choice though, it's important to...

Recognize and Set Your Boundaries. What are you willing to do? What are you ABLE to do? Your answers might be different depending on your role or your relationship with the person at risk, and that's fine. They may also change based on your own family, financial, health or any other situation. But it's important to take those things into account. For example, if you have family or job responsibilities and the person you're dealing with is chronically suicidal, it will probably not work to take on the role of being that person's SOLE source of support.

which reminds me...

Get Others Involved. You can't and shouldn't be expected to do it alone.

If Someone You Know Drops Hints About Being Suicidal, You CAN ask them about it. It might feel awkward, but sometimes being able to talk about it helps. You are NOT going to 'put the idea in their head.' Trust me,if they're really in dire straits, it's probably already crossed their mind.

If you ask them and they say 'no,' then you've done your job. If you're not sure they're telling the truth, you can give them the distress line number (780-482-4357)if they'd rather talk to someone else or--if it's within your limits--let them know you are willing to talk about it. Nevertheless, if you get a 'no', whether or not you believe them, that's their prerogative and I believe it's important to respect that. You can't MAKE someone get help (except for the imminent danger).

If they say yes...well, that's a little bit beyond the scope of this post.The Distress Line will have more information for you. Be grateful that they trust you enough to let you know this. A lot of times just knowing someone is there to care or listen goes a long way.

If you've talked to the person and you're unsure where they are at, one helpful thing to do is to contract them to call the Distress Line if they get to the point where they are thinking of acting on any suicidal thoughts. The reason we use the Distress Line is because it's a 24 hour line. There is always someone there and available to talk, which won't always be the case for you (cell phones die, you need sleep, to go to work, etc.)

Sometimes you aren't in a position to ask the question. If that's the case...

If You Suspect The Person Is An Imminent Danger to Themselves or Others, call 911 or Emergency Services. If someone tells you they've already started their attempt for example--taking pills, already on the bridge. Another case would be if there are others who may be in danger (ie you've heard threats
or implied threats against bosses/family members). Trust your instincts. It's better to call and be wrong.

If you DO call and Emergency Services does intervene, it sometimes happens that the person who threatened suicide is...less than grateful. It's a normal reaction. There's a stigma around suicide and mental health issues, and a lot of people would be embarassed having the police/medical crews show up at their door. That doesn't mean you did anything wrong by calling them. If they're angry with you, order to be angry they have to be alive and them being alive is a good thing.

Hopefully this post will give you a working understanding of where to start when supporting someone who might be suicidal. I encourage you to visit the links in the second paragraph of the page for more info.

Saturday, February 25 - RCW Explosion, Glengarry Community Hall - Edmonton

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