How to Help When Someone Talks of Suicide
Like so many other mental health conditions, suicide can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or background. In fact, between 2020 and 2021, rates of suicide climbed for both men and women and across all ages. While the statistics only track the individuals lost to suicide, the truth is everyone is affected by suicide, not just the victim. As individuals, families, communities, and businesses, we must continue to reach out to those who are struggling, show them support, help them get the follow-up mental health care they need, and guide them toward a path of recovery.
Although there is no single solution to suicide, we do know that when people talk about it, those who may be struggling with suicidal ideation are less likely to act. Research has shown that when those contemplating suicide have someone to talk to, they will often agree to get the treatment they need. While many people experience fleeting thoughts of suicide, their threats often go ignored. Debunking the myth that these thoughts of suicide are a sign of weakness, attention seeking, or being selfish is vital to helping the individual through these times of crisis. For those experiencing hopelessness and helplessness, suicide can seem like the only way out.
If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, it is imperative to talk with them and ask direct questions to find out what they're thinking. Your questions will not push them to act on their thoughts, but rather give them an opportunity to convey how they feel and reduce the risk of them completing suicide. Talking with and finding help for someone who may be suicidal can be difficult.
Some helpful steps include:
- being direct and talking openly about suicide
- being willing to listen and allowing the person to express their feelings while taking care to be sure you are acting non-judgmentally—this includes not debating whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether their feelings are good or bad.
- listening and offering hope that alternatives are available can provide reassurance and willingness to see that recovery is possible
If you feel an individual is a danger to themselves, it is critical that they are not left alone. Getting help from people or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention or calling 911 is necessary to help keep them safe.
United Counseling Service (UCS) can provide immediate emergency services to individuals in crisis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout Bennington County. The clinician on-call responds to all requests and can help arrange more intensive levels of care as needed. You can access these services by calling 802-442-5491.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available by dialing 988, 24 hours a day, and can provide free and confidential support for people in distress and help connect them to prevention and crisis resources.
Understanding the issues surrounding suicide and mental health are an important initial step to help others in crisis, and to begin to change the stigmas and misconceptions around suicide. If you are struggling with a mental health issue, seek out the support of friends, family or a professional who can help lighten the burden. It’s important to remember there is no shame in seeking help. If you suspect someone is having thoughts of suicide, speak up. You just might save a life.
UCS is a private, non-profit community mental health center that has been an essential part of Bennington County’s integrated healthcare system since 1958. The organization has been designated as a Center of Excellence by Vermont Care Partners. UCS promotes healthy lifestyles through all its programs and offers care at 15 different facilities, including two primary outpatient facilities in Bennington and Manchester. UCS provides outpatient counseling and addiction services, emergency mental health services, extensive rehabilitation services, home and school-based services, employment services for people recovering from mental illness or with developmental disabilities, and early childhood services. For more information visit www.ucsvt.org.
Katie Aiken, is a Blueprint Clinician with United Counseling Service