This post is an article from the Winter 2018 issue of the OYAN Review and has been edited slightly for publication on the blog. It was written by Julie Jeanmard at the Cottage Grove Public Library.
Cindy Womack presented a workshop at the OYAN fall meeting from the QPR Institute about suicide prevention. Suicide is preventable and intervention does help. In fact, survivors of suicide attempts report immediate regret once the action was taken and a want to live. It is often a solution to a perceived problem that stems from pain and hopelessness. Three signs of suicide can be direct or indirect comments, behavioral cues, or situational circumstances. Comments can include “I am going to… (harm myself).” or “I don’t want to be here anymore.” Behavioral cues might be previous attempts, giving away one’s belongings, cleaning out their room/locker, or religious interest gain or loss. Some circumstances that can trigger suicidal thoughts are expulsion from school, loss of a relationship, death of a loved one, financial in- security, fear of punishment (for example, juvenile detention), or rejection from peers/friends.
The first step in prevention is to question the person. Asking about suicidal thoughts doesn’t cause someone to think about suicide or follow through; it opens the door to helping them. If in doubt, ask. Use a private setting when there is time to have a full discussion. When asking, make sure to listen and not argue. Questions might be direct: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” or “When there’s a loss, people wish they’re dead. Do you feel that way?” Questions can also be indirect: “Do you ever wish to go to sleep and not wake up?” One thing not to do is be judgmental or leading as it may prevent the person from feeling comfortable sharing and they might simply respond, “No.” An example of such a question is, “Surely you’re not thinking of suicide?”
The next step is persuade the person to get help. While listening, be non- judgemental and offer hope; express how important they are to you. Say things such as, “Will you let me help you get help?” or “Let’s call this number together and just see what they have to say.” This can lead to the last step, refer. The best approach is to take them directly to get help. The next best is to get a commitment from them to accept help. The third best option is to offer resources and try to get them to promise that they will seek help before acting on committing suicide. After the talk, follow up. Call them or talk to them in person and ask how they are.
Find out more at the QPR Institute.