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How You Can Help

suicide helpMany students have never directly dealt with a suicidal person. When such a situation presents itself, they are likely to feel helpless and overwhelmed. The following guidelines are presented to help provide a sense of direction and facilitate the helping process.

Ways To Help A Depressed Person

This information is from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH):

  • Recognize the symptoms.
  • Convince the depressed person to get treatment or, in the case of a depressed child or adolescent, help the youngster get treatment.
  • Tell the depressed person that he or she is loved, deserves to feel better, and will feel better with appropriate treatment.
  • Recommend helping resources (See below for suggestions).
  • If the depressed person is not functioning, accompany him or her to treatment until normal function returns.
  • If the depressed person is too young or ill to provide needed information to the therapist, act as a go-between as long as needed.
  • If the depressed person is suicidal or having hallucinations or delusions, arrange for hospitalization.
  • If the depressed person is functional and refuses treatment, seek the assistance of others -- friends, doctor, clergy, relatives -- who might convince him or her that treatment is needed and will help.
  • Don't give up too soon -- the depressed person may have to hear more than once and from several people that he or she deserves to feel better and can, with proper treatment.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen

We often undervalue the power of active listening. Help them to hear
themselves by rephrasing their words and feelings. For example, "In
other words, you're feeling/saying . . . "

  • Be supportive - Show that you care. "I care about you." "You are important to me."
  • Avoid being judgmental or arguing about the moral issues regarding suicide - Take every complaint or reference to suicide seriously.
  • Be direct when addressing suicidal intentions:
    • Ask: "John, are you thinking about suicide?" If the person is suicidal, studies show that such a question can be a relief. He or she may actually welcome the chance to express painful feelings. If the person is not suicidal, you have expressed care and concern.
  • Evaluate the immediate risk.
  • If the person is experiencing suicidal thoughts, check out the next three predictors of immediate risk:
    • The presence of a suicide plan,
    • Possession of means for suicide, and
    • A time schedule.
  • With the presence of each progressive predictor, the chances of immediate harm increase.
    • Specifically ask: "Do you have a plan?" "Do you have the means (pills, a knife, or something else)?" "When do you plan to kill yourself?" Never leave a person alone who has secured a means for suicide. An added note: Protect yourself. If the person is armed, leave the premises and call the police.
  • Talk with others.
    • This is extremely important! Do not allow yourself to be the only one helping a suicidal person. Recognize the limits of your expertise and responsibility.

Problems that precipitate suicide are usually temporary ones--unfortunately, suicide is a permanent solution to these temporary troubles. Life's difficulties can be extremely painful and may appear to last forever; however, better times do happen. Survivors of attempted suicide consistently express relief that their attempt failed. Tragically, increasing numbers of young adults are choosing this option.

A recent study shows that over the last 30 years the suicide rate in young people has more than tripled. The most dramatic increase in the suicide rate has occurred in the 15 to 24 age bracket (up 312%), followed by the 20- to 24-year-old age group (up 163%)--both traditional college-age groups. The most sobering statistic is that suicide is second only to automobile accidents as the leading cause of death among 18- to 24-year-olds.

It isn't always easy to help the depressed person get treatment, but it can be done, and helping can make you both feel better.

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