What Can I Do to Prevent Suicide? Part 2

The 3 “Rs” of Suicide Prevention – Part 2

Someone you care about is showing signs that they may be at greater risk for considering suicide as an option to end the pain they’re going through.  You’ve seen the warning signs, and you’re familiar with a recent event that may be triggering those kinds of thoughts.  Perhaps they are making statements that you find very concerning.  You want to help – but how?

The second of the 3 “Rs” is Respond.  You should take action as soon as possible to help this person you care about, and here are some steps to take so that response can be effective: 

You must clarify the presence of suicidal intention by asking the right questions.  What questions?

  • Are you thinking of killing yourself? Be blunt.  Use the word “kill.”
  • How long have you been thinking about killing yourself?
  • Do you have a plan to kill yourself? Get specific information about the plan.
  • Do you have the means to carry out the plan? Remember, every police officer has this.

By asking the right questions and getting to the heart of the matter, you may find this person doesn’t really want to die, but they do want to change how they are presently living their lives.  In most cases, confronting the issues head on instead of waiting until it’s too late is exactly what that person needs.  And if you start this process by showing that you care about this person, then you must be willing to stick with it until you can get them to the appropriate kind of help.

You must contract that intention by using the “principle of unintended consequences.”

  • Who is going to find your body and clean up the mess? That may be something the individual has actually never given any thought to.
  • Your family may be left with no benefits and no life insurance if you die by suicide.
  • Is there anything or anyone to stop you? There may be religious beliefs, thoughts about people left behind like spouse, children, even pets.

Many people who find themselves in a state of distress and despair are not thinking clearly.  The emotional part of the brain has taken over, and the logical part of the brain that controls decision-making and behavioral impulses becomes inhibited.  Forcing a person to consider the difficult and lasting consequences of their impending decision may be exactly what they need in the moment, which allows you the necessary time to get them to the kind of help they need.

A person is perhaps less likely to attempt suicide in the presence of another person, so getting someone else involved is also a logical step to take.  Consider the level of suicide risk in making this determination.  This individual may be a family member, especially if the suicidal person simply needs to talk through his or her issues with someone close.  In the case of law enforcement officers, the local department may have peer support people or a chaplain who can respond and assume control of the intervention.  Remember, if a suicide attempt is imminent, someone needs to be there to get the suicidal person on the line with the suicide prevention hotline or get them to the nearest emergency room for evaluation.

In Part 3, we will talk about how to go about referring a suicidal individual to the appropriate level of care safely, quickly, and effectively.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts yourself, or you are concerned about a loved one, reach out to us at m.me/callforbackup.org and one of our peer specialists can point you in the right direction for help.

Published by David R. Edwards, Ph.D., C.T.S.S.

David is a reserve police officer, chaplain, author, and educator, and a Certified Trauma Services Specialist. He is an approved instructor for the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation and member of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association.

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