For Families and Friends

ZSP_300x260Too many people in the U.S. are dying from suicide. We can all do our part to change that.

Most people who try to kill themselves have two things happening. The first is a pattern of stresses, losses, struggles, and defeats—maybe, but not necessarily depression—enough to leave them feeling emotionally drained, exhausted, overwhelmed.

The second is a “pivotal” event, kind of the “last straw.” This is often a single, sudden event like getting bullied, being fired from a job, failing a class, getting arrested, a bad break-up or divorce…it might even be something self-induced, like getting drunk or high.

People who care can help. You don’t have to have any kind of special training—remember, 90% of helping is just being there. Here is a simple three-step method—called QPR—you can use to help a friend or loved one who is considering suicide.

If you have a friend or loved one who has been experiencing stresses, losses, struggles, or defeats, or has had a single, sudden, bad life event like the ones described above, stay in touch. Ask how they’re doing. Ask what they’re doing to cope. And ask the question…”are you thinking about suicide?” or “are you considering killing yourself?”

Asking that question may feel awkward to you. It may feel less awkward if you wrap it in a context like this: “I care about you and I’m concerned about how terribly bad you’re feeling. Are you thinking about killing yourself?”

Encourage them to talk about it, to take your question seriously. Be an open-minded, respectful friend.

Don’t worry that you’re planting the idea of suicide in their head or encouraging them to hurt themselves. You’re not. You’re simply saying that you’re concerned and offering yourself as a safe person to talk about what may be on their mind.

If your friend or loved one acknowledges having suicidal thoughts, take it seriously. Not all thoughts about suicide lead to death, but every death by suicide began with a suicidal thought.

Tell the person about your concern for their welfare. Say that you don’t want them to die. Ask them to promise to get professional help. Offer to help them get help–offer to take them, or go with them.

Don’t give up, don’t walk away. Persuade the person to get help, and then follow through to make sure it really happens.

(If there are guns, knives, or other dangerous things in your home or the individual’s home, get rid of them, now. Lock them safely somewhere else, where the suicidal person won’t have access. Your local police department may be willing to lock up weapons until the crisis passes. Call them and ask.)

Help your friend or loved one find a professional—a psychologist, social worker, licensed professional counselor, psychiatrist—who will take the situation seriously and respond immediately. That means no waiting lists, no complicated confusion about insurance or fees…someone who will see your friend or loved one today, and will begin working with them to stop the urge to suicide right now.

If you can’t find someone like that, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They’ll help.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has helped many people who were thinking about suicide. (They can help family and friends do what’s right, too.)

We know from experience that it is possible to get through this kind of crisis. Given the chance, most people with suicidal thoughts will survive. As a friend or loved one, you can help make that more likely by using this Q-P-R method.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255