Warning signs are an invitation to communicate. A direct, straightforward response is most effective. Ask your child if he or she is contemplating suicide; no matter what you hear, try not to be judgmental, shocked or angry. Do not communicate your personal attitudes about suicide; instead, offer support and reassurance that suicidal feelings do not last forever. Seek the assistance of a trained professional as soon as possible.
Your child’s school may have protocols to follow in the case of a suicide attempt or death by suicide. It is important that the suicide is not romanticised or glamourised. Instead, teachers are encouraged to discuss with students the characteristics and events that can lead to suicide, and to explore with them all the other options that exist.
But school should not be the only source of help. For parents, an attempted suicide or death by suicide in their child’s circle of friends presents an opportunity to explore their child’s stress levels and methods of coping. Dramatic statements emphasising the parent’s horror and fear of suicide are best avoided. It is more effective to express a willingness to talk and to be supportive, no matter what may be happening in the child’s life.
How Can I Help?
- Talk about it. Talking about suicide will help remove the stigma and encourage people to reach out for help.
- Educate yourself on the risk factors and warning signs.
- Trust your instincts and follow through with action if you have suspicions about someone you know.
- Be alert to changes in behaviour
- If someone’s intentions are unclear, ask for clarification. Ask them if they have a plan.
- Have an open, honest, and frank discussion
- Listen without judgment
- Allow the person to talk freely
- Acknowledge their feelings
- Ask if there is anything you can do
- Remain calm, supportive, and patient
- Be genuine and honest in your concern
- Encourage and support them in seeking assistance from a mental health/medical professional. Offer to make the call for them.
- Stay with them or make a plan with the person for the next few hours or days
- If they are reluctant to get help, be firm in your intentions to get assistance for them
- Contact 911 if the individual is posing a threat to themselves or others