Asking About Suicide
There are several commonly held beliefs regarding individuals, who either think about or attempt suicide. Unfortunately, many of these beliefs are incorrect and can often keep people from intervening as g8keepers when critical. Let’s broach the topic of suicide and bust these myths so we can respond timely and appropriately to friends, students, or peers who may need us.
Myths about individuals who may be contemplating suicide:
- People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.
- If a person is going to attempt suicide, nothing is going to stop them.
- People who commit suicide are unwilling to seek help.
- Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Don’t let these notions keep you from asking a friend directly if they are thinking about suicide. Research shows that people remain very ambivalent about suicide, including right before an attempt. Open up the topic of suicide by asking about it using direct words. You should ask questions like: “Are you thinking about suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Questions like this may seem intrusive and can be uncomfortable to ask. Keep in mind the culture of the person you are talking with, but remember, if the individual is feeling suicidal, being direct will help him/her feel understood.
If g8keepers ask these direct questions, individuals in crisis will feel relieved that their feelings were normalized and that someone was willing to recognize their pain. An individual may respond “no” to this inquiry, but sometimes they may respond “yes.” You should then refer them to Counseling & Psychological Services for further counseling.