Yes, it can be distressing to hear someone feeling suicidal, and our instinct might be to feel like doing something for him or her. But the most valuable step would be to be a good listener. It is important to be able to stay calm, and keep your worries aside, instead giving them a chance to talk.
You need not be able to offer a guarantee saying that everything will be alright. But it is important to realize that the suicidal individuals tend to see no other way out of the situation. They simply need a reassurance of some such alternative to be guided to find a way to continue living.
Be non-judgmental and non-critical, and simply provide a sympathetic ear that doesn’t necessarily try to give advice.
If you have identified the individual to be depressed and at risk for suicide, it is important for you to ascertain the severity of the risk. If the adolescent is at risk for suicide, he or she should not be left alone. All dangerous items that are potentially harmful including sharp objects, pills, and poisonous substances need to be removed from the reach of the teenager. He or she should not be allowed access to the balcony or the terrace either.
It is important to validate the individual’s feelings, acknowledging the difficulty and the pain that they are experiencing. This would help them see your genuine concern and care, and they would appreciate your effort in trying to understand what they are going through, rather than simply providing advice and your words of wisdom.
DON’T HESITATE TO START THE TOPIC
Remember, if you suspect the adolescent to be depressed, talking about suicide is not going to push him or her towards such a step. In fact, it is better to ask because giving them a chance to express their feelings can actually provide a release to pent-up negative feelings, and may even prevent a suicide attempt.
SEEK PROFESSIONAL ADVICE
It is absolutely crucial to seek help from a psychiatrist at the earliest to prevent any untoward incident. This is especially so for the adolescents who are severely depressed or at high risk for suicide. Suicidal thoughts and intents are very often associated with a treatable mental disorder like depression, and such a realisation can not only instill a sense of confidence but also make the adolescent more amenable to seeking professional help.
Dr Parikh is Director and HOD, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare