Over the past year and a half I have been working on a suicide hotline as a volunteer a few hours every week. I want to pass on a few nuggets of information to help people, to lower the number of people taking their own life. Be it a veteran who cannot take the pain any longer, a young person who is being bullied at school and cannot see how life can continue, or even someone who just broke up with the love of their life and do not see how they can possible live without them.
First if you are hurting and thinking of killing yourself or doing self-harm. From a complete stranger I can truly say that I care about you and I want you to call the national number now, 1-800-273-8255 the line is active 24/7/365. I can say that there will be someone on the other side of the line who wants to talk to you and that people do care about you no matter what is going on. Your life matters.
This part of the message it to the people around the person who is hurting. For every person who is hurting there is at least 1 or even more person in that person’s life who knows what is going on and they do not know how to help. First and foremost ask the person if they are thinking about suicide or self-harm just come out and say it. Then ask them have they done something to end their life. If they say yes to the second part of the question, stop right there and call 911. By asking them this question you will not make the person suddenly start to think about suicide. They have more than likely been thinking about suicide for a while now. Sorry to burst you bubble.
I do not know how many times people have called the hotline while I was working the line saying I have a friend who is hurting and I do not know what to do. The answer is simpler then you may think and it is to talk and listen to the person hurting. What I mean by talk to the person ask them open ended questions get the person to tell you what is going on. What do I mean by open ended questions it is questions that cannot be answered in one word. When I say listen to them do what is called active listening. This is where the person talks and you summaries what they just said to you. This way the person gets the feeling that you are listening to them and you get to confirm what you think you heard. You may think this is way too simple but it is not.
One of the main things I have come to understand talking to people on the hotline is one person can make all the difference in the world as long as that one person is willing to listen.
If the person says yes they have been thinking about suicide and they have a plan, ask them what is the plan? Make them be specific. Keep asking questions. Then talk with them to help break the plan. By this I mean if they say they plan to take a bunch of pills it could be a simple as asking them to give you the pills.
Ok so now that you have an idea of what is going on it is time to help the person come up with a safety plan. This is what is the person going to do right now to stay safe. It may be as simple as talking to people or going to the ER to get help. A safety plan is a simple set of items or ideas the person can do to stay safe right now. It is also good to help the person come up with a backup plan as well this way if the first plan does not work the other one will. Don’t forget you can always have them call the National Suicide Hotline (1-800-273-8255) as part of the any plan.
If the person cannot tell you thy will be safe right now it is ok to call 911 or take them to an ER. It is ok that you trying to help did not make them safe. But you actually were because you are able to help them get to the professional people who can help.
If more people in this world took the time to care for their friends as much as I know you do. To ask a simple question like are you thinking about suicide to people you know are hurting. I know the numbers of people who take their own life would be greatly reduced.
If you want to receive training on suicide prevention you can always call the hotline (1-800-273-8255) yourself and request the local business line and leave a message asking when the next training will be. They will be more than happy to help you get the training you are looking for.
Because I still plan to answer the hotline as long as the person in charge allows me or I find my next calling I cannot tell you my name. I must stay anonymous. So from a complete stranger I can truly say I do care about each and every person and if you are hurting and thinking about suicide please reach out and talk to someone even if it is on a phone to a complete stranger.
From me a person who cares about you.