Suicide affects thousands of people each year. It is also the 12th leading cause of death among the human population. September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, an ideal time to learn how to approach someone you care about, know what to say and help them access available resources.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline notes that according to multiple studies, asking at-risk individuals if they are suicidal does not increase suicidal thoughts or the incidence of suicide. In fact, findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce rather than increase suicidal ideation.

They promote five action steps you can use to communicate with a family member, friend, roommate or co-worker who may be having suicidal thoughts. These include:

Ask. Open the door for effective dialogue by asking “are you thinking about suicide?” in a direct, non-judgmental manner. Other questions you can ask include, “how do you hurt?” or “how can I help?” Listen intently to their reasons for being in emotional pain and pay attention to what they may share about wanting to stay alive. Gently focus on their reasons for living and avoid trying to impose your own.

Be there. Even if you can’t be physically present for someone who is experiencing thoughts of suicide, speak with them on the phone, video chat or text message with them, show your support. Help the person develop ideas for others who might be able to support them as well. Do not commit to taking any actions that you are unable or unwilling to do. Follow-through is very important in this kind of situation.

Keep them safe. Once you’ve determined suicide is an active concern, work to establish immediate safety. Has the person experiencing thoughts of suicide done anything to hurt themselves already? Have they considered how they would attempt suicide? Do they have a specific, detailed plan?

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or dial or text 988, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or visit their website. If someone is in immediate need or it is an emergency, dial 911 immediately.

Help them connect. Connecting the person to ongoing support can help them establish a safety net. Explore resources with them. Are they currently seeing a mental health professional or is this an option for them currently? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help? You can also work with them to develop a safety plan that includes ways for them to identify if they start to experience significant, severe thoughts of suicide, as well as what they can do in those crisis moments and a list of individuals to contact when a crisis occurs.

Follow up. Continue to check in with the person after your initial conversation and efforts to help them get assistance. Leave messages, send texts or set a time to call them again. This type of contact can continue to increase their feelings of connectedness. You can share your ongoing support and ask if there are more ways you may be able to help. There is evidence that reaching out, even in simple forms like sending a caring postcard, can potentially reduce their risk for suicide.

The Mental Health Navigator is a simple way to access the care and support you may personally need. After completing a short survey about your feelings, you’ll receive a personalized report and suggestions for the ideal care avenues within the program.

In-the-moment support from a licensed clinician is also available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by calling 888-881-5462.

Source: SupportLinc EAP