Preventing Suicide

Talking about Suicide

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If you or someone you know is in imminent danger of suicide take them to a hospital or call emergency services on 119.  If you or someone you know is having a mental health crisis, contact the following list of mental health hospitals which are available to provide crisis support.

  1. RSJ Amino Gondohutomo Semarang: (024) 6722565
  2. RSJ Marzoeki Mahdi Bogor: (0251) 8324024, 8324025, 8320467
  3. RSJ Soeharto Heerdjan Jakarta: (021) 5682841
  4. RSJ Prof Dr Soerojo Magelang: (0293) 363601
  5. RSJ Radjiman Wediodiningrat Malang: (0341) 423444

Talking about Suicide

When it comes to suicide, it is important that you are proactive. If you suspect a friend is suicidal, reaching out to them may be crucial as they may find it difficult to do so themselves.

Conversations about suicide can feel intimidating and difficult to navigate. Many people don’t know what to say or how to act, and worry about saying the wrong thing. This article is designed to help you navigate these conversations. 

Where to start?

One of the most important things you can do is create an open and accepting environment

  •  It is a myth that having direct conversations about suicide will increase somebody’s risk of suicide.

How to create a safe space

  • Leave your judgements and personal values out of the conversation. 
  • Do not argue with them with lines like “What about your family?” or “You have so much to live for.'' You cannot argue someone out of being suicidal. 
  • Do not make someone justify how they are feeling. Instead, recognise their emotions as valid and sit with them in their pain.

What to say and how to say it?

There are a number of things you can say to support a person at risk of suicide.

  • Let the person know that you care about them and that they are not alone.
  • Take their emotions seriously; if someone tells you that they are feeling depressed and cannot go on, it is appropriate to ask them if they have had thoughts of suicide. 
  • Aim to be more of a listener than a talker
  • It may be appropriate to ask questions to get a better understanding. 
  • Reassure the person that their feelings are temporary and that suicide is not the only option they have, even though it may feel like it.  
  • Ask them how you can further help them and then support them in their decisions

If you are talking to someone who has a high risk of suicide, it is important to gauge how suicidal they are, as this will shape how you act. The following is what you may expect of a person at high risk, and questions you can ask to determine this:

  • Have a plan for suicide (Do you have a suicide plan?)
  • Previous and recent suicide attempts (Have you had these thoughts before and have you acted on them?)
  • The means and intention to take their life (Do you have what you need to carry out your plan? Do you intend to take your own life? How safe do you feel right now?)

What to do if someone does not want to seek out help or is unwilling to talk to you?

You should encourage them to share how they are feeling with others who are close to them.

If they are unwilling, you may need to think about talking to people in their support network (whom they trust) on their behalf.

If you think someone is at risk of suicide, do not keep this information to yourself. Let them know that you are taking what they have told you very seriously and that you cannot keep this information to yourself for their own safety. You should encourage them to immediately seek professional help. You can offer support by making appointments for them or accompanying them to their appointment. The suicidal person should be involved as much as possible in this process.

Conversation Tips and Techniques 

Below are more techniques that can help progress the conversation:

Open ended Questions: these may help the person open up and can lead to broader responses. For example,

  • I'm worried about you, you don't seem your normal self, has anything been going on?

Recognition: acknowledging and empathising with what another person has said allows them to feel understood and heard. For example,

  • This has been a really tough time for you..

Reflect: reflecting can help the person feel like what they are saying is being understood and heard. The easiest way to do this is to paraphrase what has been said, and repeat it back to them. For example,

  • It sounds as though…

Summarise: summarising what has been said makes the other person feel heard. It can also help them clarify their own thinking. For example,

  • Let’s go over what we know so far...

If you believe that somone is at imminent risk of suicide, stay with them and immediately contact emergency services. It is also important that you look after yourself and do not blame yourself. Remember that you can only do your best as a non-medical professional.

Help Guide. Suicide prevention. Accessed 22/9/2019. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention.htm

Keep Calm. Accessed 22/9/2019. https://www.keepcalm.org.au/

Mayo Clinic. Suicide: What to do when someone is suicidal. Accessed 22/9/2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/suicide/in-depth/suicide/art-20044707

SANE Australia. How to help when someone is suicidal. Accessed 22/9/2019. https://www.sane.org/information-stories/facts-and-guides/sane-steps-how-to-help-when-someone-is-suicidal

Suicide Call Back Service. Discussing Suicide: How to talk to somebody about suicide. Accessed 22/9/2019. https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/resource/discussing-suicide-how-to-talk-to-somebody-about-suicide/

World Health Organisation. Suicide. Accessed 22/9/2019. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide

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