When someone is experiencing thoughts of suicide, it is crucial to understand that each person’s situation is unique and requires individualised support. Seeking professional help is of utmost importance. It is essential for members of the public to recognise when people are dealing with suicide ideation and to reach out for assistance.
Suicide is preventable. Many of us are afraid that we will say or do do the wrong thing. However, survivors of suicide attempts agreed that simply reaching out can go a long way. You don’t need to be a trained professional to help.
According to Samaritans of Singapore, this is what you can do to help someone with suicidal thoughts:
1. Call for emergency services if they are in immediate danger
When you discover that someone is in a dangerous situation or has already harmed themselves, it is crucial not to handle the situation alone. Your immediate response should be to call emergency services, such as the police or ambulance, without delay. Stay with the person until help arrives, providing them with a comforting presence and reassurance that they are not alone. Your presence and support can make a significant difference in ensuring their safety and facilitating prompt professional assistance.
It is important to remember that dealing with situations involving self-harm or imminent danger requires expertise and specialised intervention. Emergency services are trained to handle these situations effectively and can provide the necessary assistance and medical attention. By involving professionals, you ensure that the person receives the appropriate care and support they need in a timely manner.
In Singapore, suicide is no longer a crime. The Penal Code has been repealed to decriminalise suicide since 1 Jan 2020. You will not get the person into trouble by calling the police.
It is true that previous penalties for attempted suicide were a maximum of a year in jail, a fine of S$10,000, or both. This is no longer the case since the suicide has been decriminalised.
2. Look out for warning signs
Recognising the warning signs of suicide is crucial in identifying individuals who may be at risk. This allows you to offer them the support they need. While each person’s experience may vary, some common warning signs of suicide include:
Verbal cues: Pay attention to statements indicating a desire to die or hopelessness. Expressions like “I can’t go on,” “Life isn’t worth living,” or “Everyone would be better off without me” should be taken seriously.
Behavioural changes: Sudden changes in behaviour could be a warning sign. Examples include withdrawing from social activities, isolating themselves from loved ones, giving away possessions, or making final arrangements.
Mood swings: Frequent and extreme shifts in mood, ranging from depression, sadness, or irritability to sudden calmness or relief, may be indicative of an internal struggle.
Preoccupation with death: A fixation on death, researching suicide methods, or expressing a strong fascination or curiosity about dying may indicate an increased risk.
Loss of interest: A significant loss of interest or pleasure in previously enjoyed activities, hobbies, or relationships may be a sign of underlying mental health issues.
Sudden calmness: Paradoxically, some individuals may display a sudden sense of calm or relief after making the decision to end their life, as if a burden has been lifted.
It’s important to remember that these warning signs are not definitive proof of suicidal intent, but they should be taken seriously. If you notice any of these signs in yourself or someone else, it is crucial to seek help and support from mental health professionals or emergency services.
3. Ask and listen
When it comes to discussing suicidal thoughts with someone, Samaritans of Singapore recommends being direct and straightforward. While it may feel uncomfortable or awkward, remember that showing concern about their mental health is essential and can make a significant difference. It’s important to approach the conversation with sensitivity, acknowledging their struggles without being judgmental or critical. Avoid blaming them or making them feel guilty for their thoughts.
It’s natural to feel fearful of how the conversation may unfold, but studies have shown that asking someone directly about suicide does not increase the risk of them attempting suicide. In fact, initiating a conversation about suicide can provide an opportunity for individuals to express their feelings, share their burdens, and receive the support they desperately need.
Remember to listen actively and attentively when discussing suicide with someone. Allow them to open up and share their thoughts and emotions without interruption. Reassure them that you care about their well-being and that they are not alone in their struggles.
If someone discloses their suicidal thoughts, it is crucial to take their words seriously and encourage them to seek professional help. Offer to accompany them to appointments or assist them in finding appropriate resources. Remind them that reaching out for help is a sign of strength and that support is available.
4. Reach out for help
You don’t have to provide all the solutions on your own when talking to someone with suicidal thoughts. There are professionals trained to help in these situations, such as therapists, counsellors, and social service organisations. Encouraging the person to seek professional help is crucial for their well-being.
You can play a supportive role by offering to accompany them to their first appointment. Alternatively, assist them in finding appropriate resources. Making that initial contact with a mental health professional can be intimidating for someone in distress, so your presence and support can make a significant difference in their willingness to seek help.
Reassure the person that reaching out to professionals is a positive step towards getting the support they need. Highlight the expertise and experience these professionals bring to the table, as they are trained to address mental health challenges, including suicidal thoughts. Emphasise that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a courageous act of self-care and resilience.
Remember to respect the person’s autonomy and allow them to make their own decisions regarding seeking help. Offer your support, understanding, and non-judgmental attitude throughout the process. Providing information about available resources, such as helplines and mental health clinics, can also be helpful.
5. Safety planning
When someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts, it’s important to take immediate steps to ensure their safety. One important measure is to remove any items that could be used for self-harm, such as knives or other potentially dangerous objects. This reduces the immediate risk of harm and provides a safer environment for the individual.
If the person has prescribed medications, it’s crucial to work together with them to ensure they take the correct dosage at the right time. This may involve getting their permission to hold onto their medication and providing it to them as needed. This helps prevent any misuse or overdose that could further endanger their well-being.
During times of suicidal ideation, individuals may have difficulty thinking clearly and making rational decisions. Therefore, it’s beneficial to create a list of trusted contacts they can reach out to for support. This list should include trusted family members, friends, and professional helplines.
By taking these proactive measures, such as removing potential means of self-harm, managing medication, and establishing a support network, you can contribute to creating a safer environment for individuals experiencing suicidal thoughts. These actions, along with ongoing support and professional help, can significantly reduce the immediate risk and provide an opportunity for individuals to find the help and healing they need.
6. Look after yourself
Being a supportive friend or caregiver to someone experiencing suicidal thoughts can indeed be challenging and emotionally demanding. It’s essential to recognise the impact this role can have on your own well-being and take steps to prioritise self-care.
First and foremost, make sure you have a support system of your own. Reach out to trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals who can provide guidance and a listening ear when you need it. Don’t hesitate to lean on them for support and share your own feelings and concerns.
Taking care of your physical health is equally important. Make sure you’re getting enough exercise, nutritious meals, and rest. These self-care practices can help you better cope with the demands of supporting someone in need.
Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. This can be your hobbies, practising mindfulness, or seeking therapy or counselling for yourself. Taking breaks and setting boundaries in your caregiving role can also prevent burnout and allow you to recharge.
Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. By taking care of yourself, you are better equipped to provide support. Self-care isn’t selfish—it’s a vital part of maintaining your own mental and emotional health while offering support to others.
Suicide is preventable
In conclusion, it is crucial to remember that suicide is preventable, and we all have a role to play in promoting mental health and saving lives. By increasing awareness, reducing stigma, and fostering a supportive environment, we can create a society where individuals feel safe, heard, and valued. Engaging in open conversations, actively listening to others, and offering support can make a significant difference in someone’s life. Educating ourselves about warning signs, available resources, and professional help is essential. Together, we can create a compassionate community that prioritises mental well-being, supports those in need, and works collectively towards preventing suicide. Remember, your actions, no matter how small, can have a profound impact on someone’s life. Let us join hands, spread hope, and be the catalysts for change in suicide prevention.
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