TW: Suicide Prevention. Let’s keep talking.

As September draws to a close, the seasons change and the leaves begin to fall from the trees, we are reminded that nothing lasts forever. The seagulls who had once taken up residence next to my bedroom window seem to have finally moved on, and “the nights are fair drawing in”. 

It also marks the end of Suicide Prevention Month. The wider focus on it might disappear for another year, however the conversation absolutely must carry on, particularly at a time when so many people are continuing to struggle with the social isolation we’re all experiencing right now.

I’ve talked previously about how our response to someone in crisis is critical. Suicide is too sensitive and too serious a subject to assume that the person confiding in you is “just doing it for attention”.

Having been in a position a number of times when a person’s actions or words have caused me enough concern that I felt compelled to ask them the question “have you been thinking about suicide?”, I can completely understand how anyone might feel ill-prepared for asking someone this, and even more so for the answer you might receive. Using the word suicide might seem overwhelming, but it’s important that there’s no margin for error in your understanding of what’s going on in that person’s mind.

The best thing to do is to have a plan. Prepare yourself.  Regardless of the outcome, it’s always good to have some organisations in mind. Samaritans is a nice easy one – most people have heard of it and they can be contacted by either phone or email, any time of the day or night. 

Also bear in mind that if someone is in immediate danger, they will require urgent professional help. But what exactly does immediate danger look like? It can be a number of things, such as:

  • Reckless behaviour, putting themselves in harms way 
  • Self-harm
  • Drug overdose
  • Actively planning suicide
  • Writing a suicide note

Other red flags can be in what they’re saying. Sadly, many of these things are too often dismissed as being attention-seeking behaviour. Listen out for things like:

  • “I can’t do this anymore”
  • “No one would miss me”
  • “The world would be a better place without me”
  • “There’s nothing left for me anymore”
  • “It’s too late for me”

If someone is in danger, then the steps to take are:

  • Call the emergency services
  • Remove all means of self-harm
  • Do not leave them alone
  • Wait for the police or ambulance to arrive
  • Let the professionals take over.

If you don’t know what to say to someone in a mental health crisis – think of what you might need to hear if you were in their shoes. We’re all human after all. Here are some examples:

  • “You’re not alone, and it’s important that you know that”
  • “I’ve got time to talk; you have my full attention”
  • “Take as long as you need; I’m here for you”
  • ‘I’m not going anywhere”
  • “Remember when you were there for me? Let me be there for you now”
  • “I hate to see you struggling alone. Talk to me”

And when emotions are running high, there are some straightforward actions you can take:

  • Be patient and really listen to what they’re saying
  • Take them to a safe place (away from other people)
  • Assure them that they are safe
  • Tell them you’re not going anywhere. You are there for them.
  • Don’t leave them alone
  • Remind them of something positive in their life
  • Set a time and day to talk again.

These are all very straightforward, very human things to do. And should you ever find yourself in a situation like this, you would doubtless do them anyway. Because we’re only human after all.

From the team at humans of code, look after yourselves, look after each other, and if you are in crisis, please reach out for the help you deserve.

Be kind

Debi <3

If you need to speak to someone, you can find a list of organisations here. If your life is in danger, call the emergency services.

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Debi Skea
Debi Skea

Director & Co-Founder at Humans of Code

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