10 May 2004

When someone you know is suicidal

If someone you know is suicidal, what can you do to intervene?

What should one do when someone you love is suicidal? The Depression and Anxiety Support Group has the following advice:

Take it seriously
75 percent of all suicides give some warning of their intentions to a friend or family member. All suicide threats and attempts must be taken seriously, even those of teenagers among whom such threats are more common.

Be willing to listen
Take the initiative to ask what is troubling them, and attempt to overcome any reluctance to talk about it. Even if professional help is indicated, the person you care for is more apt to follow such a recommendation if you have listened to him or her. If your friend or relative is depressed, don’t be afraid to ask whether he or she is considering suicide, or even if they have a particular plan or method in mind.

Do not attempt to argue anyone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care and understand, that he or she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary, that depression can be treated, and that problems can be solved. Avoid the temptation to say, "You have so much to live for", or "Your suicide will hurt your family".

Seek professional help
Be actively involved in encouraging the person to see a physician or mental health professional immediately. Since suicidal people often don’t believe they can be helped, you may have to do more. You can make a difference by helping those in need find a knowledgeable mental health professional or a reputable treatment facility.

In an acute crisis
Take the person to an emergency room or walk-in clinic at a psychiatric hospital. Do not leave the person alone until help is available. Remove from the vicinity of the potentially suicidal person any firearms, drugs, razors or scissors that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Medication and/or hospitalisation may be indicated and may be necessary at least until the crisis abates. If a psychiatric facility is unavailable, call your local emergency number. Chances are the dispatcher can help you locate immediate psychiatric treatment.

What about follow-up treatment?
Suicidal patients are often hesitant to seek help and may run away after an initial contact unless there is support for their continuing. If medication is prescribed, take an active role to make sure the patient follows his/her prescription, and be sure to notify the doctor about any unexpected side effects. Often, alternative medications can be prescribed.

For more information, contact the Depression and Anxiety Support Group at (011) 783 1474/6

Related Articles
Post a question to Cybershrink
Controlling suicidal thoughts


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Contraceptives and you »

Scientists create new contraceptive from seaweed Poor long-term birth control training leads to 'accidents'

7 birth control myths you should stop believing

Will the Pill make you gain weight? Can you fall pregnant while breastfeeding? We bust seven common myths about birth control.

Your digestive health »

Causes of digestive disorders 9 habits that could hurt your digestive system

Your tummy rumblings might help diagnose bowel disorder

With the assistance of an 'acoustic belt', doctors can now determine the cause of your tummy troubles.