It’s Suicide Prevention Month and everyone has a role to play. Sometimes providing support can mean looking out for signs of distress, or having a brief conversation to check in to see how someone’s doing. Here’s some simple, tangible tips to lean on when you want to check in with someone.
First Things First: Helping someone in immediate crisis
If you or someone you know is in a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room immediately. While doing so might feel overwhelming, it’s important to remember that individuals who receive emergency care are almost always grateful for the support after the crisis subsides.
Not sure how to help?
You don’t have to have all the answers. The only mistake you can make is not doing anything. If you don’t feel you can offer support, find someone who can.
When to offer support
Crisis can take many forms, whether it is coping with a stressful event, a family challenge, financial hardship, or a mental/physical health condition. Our community plays an essential role in helping to navigate the path forward and it starts with recognizing the signs of distress.
- Signs to look for:
- Withdrawal (personal and/or professional)
- Changes in appearance
- Consistent comments about being overwhelmed, lost, not knowing what to do, or feeling stuck
- Increased substance use
- Increase frustration and/or anger
- Increased confusion and/or lethargy
- Trust your gut – if someone you know is acting differently in several areas of their life, it’s likely a sign that something is off.
Having difficult conversations
Offering help can feel intimidating. The good news – showing support and connecting others to care can be simple. The most important thing to remember is to be curious and direct about your concerns and desire to help.
- Have the conversation in a private setting
- Be curious and empathetic
- Be direct in sharing your concern (consider using examples)
- Be clear that you want to help
- Do more listening than talking
- Don’t express judgement
- Don’t rush the conversation
- Plan a next step or check-in
- Conversation starters:
- “You haven’t seemed like yourself recently, is everything okay?”
- “I know that ______ (i.e. you’ve been missing class, finances have been tight, a lot has been going on with your family) lately, is there anything I can do to help?”
- “I’m sorry you are going through this and really glad you told me. Have you considered seeking additional help? We can look together right now.”
If you are worried about someone, the most important thing to do is say something. Simply taking the time to listen can go a long way and open the door to someone connecting with additional support. If you are still worried after an initial conversation, be persistent and follow up to show your support.
How to take action
- If someone is in an immediate crisis, it’s important that you or someone else stay with the person (assuming there is no immediate danger to bystanders) while you get support
- If you are able, offer one or two choices for connecting the individual to additional support, while being insistent that they connect. For example: “I am going to get you some help. Would you like me to go with you to a health center, call a crisis line, or call 911?”
Being non-judgemental, empathetic, and intentional about your desire to connect a person in crisis with support are the most effective ways to manage this situation. Most importantly, don’t do nothing. If you don’t feel you can offer the support someone needs in the moment, contact someone who can. Not doing anything is the only mistake you can make.
*If you need additional support, consider reaching out to request an appointment with one of our mental health care providers at Diversus Health today. If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental health crisis and need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.