Each September, counseling centers and mental health organizations across the country work together to raise awareness on an increasingly important issue: suicide prevention. Suicide can affect anyone, no matter their race, age, gender identity, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. So, why don’t we talk about it? For some, talking about suicide is taboo and shouldn’t be brought up in conversation. Others may refrain from mentioning suicide due to the fear of increasing someone’s suicidality. However, this is a myth!
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIHM), asking an at-risk individual if they’re suicidal does not increase suicidal thoughts. In fact, it is one of the first preventative steps to take. Simply talking about suicide allows a chance to sort through distressing thoughts and identify resources that can help.
Check out these NIMH recommendations on what to do (and not do) when having a conversation about suicide.
- Be patient and calm
When someone mentions having thoughts of suicide, it is important to take their statements seriously. Expressing these thoughts and feelings can be challenging for that person, so it is important to remain calm and create an atmosphere that is open and nonjudgmental.
- Ask Direct Questions
Remember: asking these types of questions do not make at-risk individuals more suicidal. “Are you thinking about suicide?” sounds like a rude question to ask, but for people having suicidal thoughts, this type of question presents an opportunity to express what is troubling them.
- Express Support
Let them know they aren’t alone in feeling the way they do. Many people have suicidal thoughts, which means there are many amazing (and free) resources that can help. Share information with them, such as the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-TALK) or the Crisis Text Line (Text Hello to 741741).
- Help Connect
Now that they have shared their suicidal thoughts with you, it is crucial that you help them connect with a resource that is appropriate for them. If they are a Mason student, direct them to CAPS. If you are concerned that they are in imminent danger of harming themselves, call the Mason Police Department at (703) 993-2810, 911, or a crisis hotline.
- Stay in Touch
After the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, it is necessary to remember that seeking mental health treatment can be a prolonged journey. Checking up on them to see how they’re doing helps ensure that they will stay on their recovery track.
- Don’t debate if suicide is right or wrong
Delegitimizing their thoughts and feelings isn’t going to help alleviate the situation. Instead of debating over the morality of suicide, aim to find out what led them to contemplate this decision.
- Don’t be afraid to ask if they have a plan
Knowing if they have a plan or not will allow you to better gauge their situation and safety. If you believe they are in immediate danger to their self, seek help by calling 911, Mason Police Department at (703)-993-2810, or a crisis hotline.
- Don’t argue, threaten, or raise voice
It is easy to get upset when someone you care for has suicidal thoughts, but by raising your voice, threatening them, or causing an argument, you will not be helping them seek treatment. Instead, remain calm, allow them to talk, and then work to identify a helpful resource.
- Don’t forget to mention CAPS
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, know that there is help available. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) is a free, supportive service for Mason students, and we are here for you! We offer a variety of mental health services, such as drop in consultations, daily workshops, group therapy, and individual therapy sessions. If you ever have a question, please reach out to us at (703) 993-2380.