What should you do if someone in your area is considering suicide? A lot of people do not know how to react. Clinical Psychologist Martin Steendam gives concrete advice in this interview. He is the project leader of suicide prevention for the national organization of human health in the Netherlands (GGZ).
Don’t be too direct
If someone is suicidal, you should not immediately start to calm him down. Go stand next to the other. Imagine where the other is. It feels like a deep pit or a dark tunnel. Maybe you have the feeling that you have to save someone from a dangerous situation, so you may want to come in action. But above all take the time to listen carefully, to find the peace of mind for real attention.
Ask for thoughts
Good contact is important. This is not only good listening but also honest questions about the concrete thoughts that play through the head of the other person. You do not have to solve it, but try to hear the thoughts that someone has about death.
Somebody who is suicidal finds it difficult to get in touch with positive feelings. It can be complicated for such a person to realize that he is important to his or her partner, or to the family. Someone who has thoughts of suicide can feel that the world is better off when he is gone. Trying to keep talking about this can help to come back to the more positive feelings.
It is good to realize that it is not dangerous to talk about suicide. It is dangerous if you do not talk about it.