Suicide is the biggest killer of young people – male and female – under 35 in the UK. If someone tells you that they are contemplating the unthinkable, here’s what to do.
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Firstly, it is important not to panic and listen to the person contemplating suicide – hear them out. It has taken them a lot of courage for them to be open and honest with you so it is important that you take what they say seriously and without judgment. As hard and as painful as it might be to just stay silent, you need to hear their reasons for wanting to die before you can focus on the many reasons they have to live.
Ask open and honest questions and show that you’re listening by reflecting on what they say and clarifying what they mean if needed. Don’t jump in with solutions but instead allow them to express their problems first. Remember that, regardless of what has happened or your opinion on this, it is making a young person think about ending
Don’t belittle their feelings by saying it’s ‘just a phase’, ‘you’ll grow out of it’ or ‘why is that even bothering you?’, no matter how hard you find it to understand. Don’t offer platitudes like ‘things will pick up’ or try to fix everything. Take the time to imagine what it’s like for that person, focus on their feelings and their experiences – not your own.
It’s absolutely okay to not know what to say. You’re a human being too and what you’re hearing might be terrifying for you, as well as the individual. If you don’t know how to respond, tell them that. But reassure them that you are glad they told you – this can be far more empowering and genuine than making something up. If you’re honest with them, they’ll be honest with you. Acknowledge the importance of what they’ve said and give them space and time to talk some more.