What Can I Do to Prevent Suicide? Part 3

The 3 “Rs” of Suicide Prevention – Part 3

As we said in the beginning, suicide is a serious mental health problem that ultimately must be addressed by mental health professionals.  But you have encountered someone you care about that has been considering suicide as an option.  You have recognized the risk factors, warning signs, and possible trigger events.  You have responded by asking the right questions and leading them through considering the consequences.  Now it’s time to make sure they get the appropriate type of help.

Even if the risk of imminent suicide is very low, never just end a conversation with a suicidal person in the hopes that he or she will not make an attempt to complete the suicide.  Before you conclude, you must get agreement that no attempt will be made, and that the person is able to identify by name who he or she will call if the suicidal thoughts become too intense to control. 

If the risk of imminent suicide is moderate to high, then remember that the third of the 3 “Rs” is refer.  A number of things must be considered in this part of the process, including:

Anticipating barriers (i.e., excuses):

  • Hesitation due to the stigma of seeking help for mental wellness
  • Not wanting to be seen as “weak” by family, friends, coworkers
  • Not understanding the role of mental health professionals
  • Being concerned about the cost of care
  • They’re afraid of losing their job

Help the person identify a local mental health professional that can be contacted as a resource if the risk of suicide is at anything but the lowest level.  That resource may be the EAP contracted by the department or city, someone listed in the network of providers by their health insurance company, or it may be someone from a directory of professionals in the area.

Knowing referral sources for any type of underlying problem:

  • Mental health
  • Spiritual care
  • Disaster assistance
  • Grief support
  • Legal issues
  • Family counseling

Referring someone to a competent mental health professional is important, but it is also important to help them get access to other types of care when indicated, depending on the underlying issue that may have contributed to their sense of helplessness and hopelessness. 

Following up after the referral:

  • It shows that you still care about their well-being
  • It helps ensure they actually followed through on the referral source you recommended
  • It may open up opportunities to share more information with them about additional resources, if indicated

Please know that this is NOT a complete course in suicide prevention and intervention.  It is, however, a few simple steps for caring people to keep in mind when they encounter someone who, for whatever reason, has begun to consider suicide as an option.  Your willingness to help someone you care about, and knowing how to go about it, may just save someone’s life one day.

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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