shadowIn 2011 in Scotland there were 772 deaths by suicide a fall on 2010, but the number still represents 2 per day and that is 2 too many Perhaps if we were all a bit more comfortable about what is happening for the person with suicidal thoughts we would be able to do some good.

Suicide comes from a set of feelings and thoughts where the person feels helpless, that things can never get better and there is nothing they can do that will make their life better ever. They want to stop the pain the feelings that they are suffering. No demographic is immune from suicidal feelings but young people and particularly young men are more likely to be at risk. Most people who feel suicidal want help because they feel so helpless so reaching out is the most human thing you can do for them

One of the biggest risks with suicide is the unspoken social rules the taboos that prevent us talking about suicide and being able to connect to someone in distress. One of the best ways to decide if someone is to ask them directly. Being prepared to talk about the person’s feelings and thoughts openly and honestly can help them to overcome the immediate crisis. It also I hope destroys the myth that talking about suicide makes the person more likely to die by suicide.

Self-harmerIf someone talks about suicide you should always take them seriously and don’t dismiss them, rather stay with them listen and try to understand what is happening. Someone who has talked about suicide in the past is more likely to use it in the future so don’t make assumptions that because they have not acted in the past they will not do so now.

The key things that you can do for the person is to try to support them through the crisis and beyond, talk to them and listen closely to how they feel and what their thoughts are. It can be difficult to hear some of their thoughts but try to accept them as they are. If there are practical things that can be done suggest them. Help them to see the options of support that are open to them, if you are not sure what they are you can put them in touch with the Samaritans, or look at on line resources such as Chooselife or breathing space.

It is unlikely that their feelings will disappear quickly so don’t be afraid to follow up and don’t feel that you cannot talk to them about suicidal feelings. Encourage them to get help – their GP is a good starting point.

The key here is to be prepared to talk about suicide and face the fear full on.