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Suicide - Afraid to Ask?
by Ralph Seland © 1999
For someone you know, this article could mean the difference between life
What causes suicide?
We think of depressed people as being suicidal. Some are.
Some aren't. The same holds true for all other possibilities that you might
name. Usually there is no single cause, but there is a layering of one
problem on top of another. It's like the "(con)tributaries"
merging to form a river. For most, that river flows very slowly; for a few,
it rushes toward the waterfall of suicidal death.
How does it all begin?
FEELINGS come first. -- Feelings like:
Likely there are no conscious suicidal thoughts.
THOUGHTS turn into a cry for help:
ACTIONS may give a clue:
An abrupt mood change from sadness to happiness may indicate that the person has made that hard decision to die.
PHYSICALLY, the person may show:
These thoughts and feelings likely will not be expressed to
a psychologist, the family doctor or the pastor. They will be expressed to
you, a friend. It is a cry for help. The person may talk about contributing
issues but will seldom mention suicide. He may not realize that his behavior
is suicidal, but he is giving subliminal messages.
You won't offend. Hopefully you will get a "No,"
and the conversation will continue without missing a beat. But if the person
is suicidal, he will be so glad to have someone who cares enough to ask.
Asking will not put the thought in the person's mind and cause him to do
something that he would not have done otherwise.
Some important factors to look at are:
The last three are key. C-P-R.
CURRENT SUICIDE PLAN. Is the plan well defined with
the means available?
PRIOR SUICIDE BEHAVIOR. History of self injury,
including "modeling" by family or others. (If a family member has
suicided, risks are elevated. If the person has tried it once, risks are
This is no time to play psychiatrist. I'll give her time to vent her problems, but will not try to solve them. As soon as she has vented and is comfortable with me, I will get down to business at hand. My only job at the moment is to lower her risk of suicide. The rest can be dealt with later.
I put my emphasis in three areas.
"From what you have told me, there is a part of you that wants to die. Am I hearing you right?"
"And yet you gave me a phone call. So there is a part of you that also wants to live?"
"What is that "something" that keeps you going even when things get tough?"
"You say your children are really precious. How old are they?"
"Would you make me a promise?"
"Would you promise me that you will not do any harm to yourself between now and the time you see your doctor?"
"And if you miss that appointment, would you promise to phone this number? There will always be someone here for you."
Whether she lives or dies is ultimately up to her. I am not responsible for her actions but, by offering a listening ear, I have given her a fighting chance. By the grace of God, you can do the same.
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Last modified 10 May 2010 08:13 PM