How to Deal with a Suicidal Person
In helping a person deal with suicidal thoughts, it is best to combine the approach of treating the underlying mental disorder and treating suicidal tendencies directly. A five-point suicide prevention plan, dubbed SUPER, is presented below:
1. Savoring love. The social support system of the person with suicidal thoughts must let the people concerned know about the emotional condition of that suicidal person. A suicidal individual may feel that he is alone amidst many problems that he is facing.
He may need reassurance of the love and support of his loved ones; and these people must know that they are there to help the person feel the warmth, appreciation, assistance, and encouragement that he felt he had lost.
Under this step, the person and his family and/or social circles may organize bonding activities, such as eating meals together. Such activities will help reestablish links to empower the personal feeling of that suicidal person. Furthermore, the family or the social circle from which the person experiences alienation may undergo counseling sessions that will determine communication gaps needed to be filled in.
2. Uncovering underlying causes. It must be understood that suicide may only be the so-called tip of the iceberg. Thus, it is extremely important to determine the underlying causes for the person’s suicidal thoughts. For example, the person may be suffering from treatable mental disorders such as depression, schizophrenia, substance abuse, or borderline personality disorder. If such is the case, you must help the person avail of services from duly authorized therapists or physicians who will be able to give immediate relief to counter the suffering of that person.
3. Problem-solving. For cases that may not involve other psychological illnesses such as depression, it may be helpful to take note of Shneidman’s approach in preventing suicide. Following his ten commandments, it becomes ultimately necessary to help the person seek a solution, which is outside the person’s realm of thinking.
As what Gerald Davidson, John Neale and Ana Kring explained in the article found in Abnormal Psychology: “Some Myths about Suicide,” suicidal people do not necessarily want to die. Instead, they only want to escape the negative life events they are facing. Hence, an effective suicide prevention program must help the person understand that killing himself is not the solution. Instead, the person must be taught of a problem-solving mechanism through which he can determine various options in dealing with the problem and assess the consequences of each action that he takes. It may consist of a flowchart of things to do, with elaborations for each step so that he can take note of the fact that each decision he makes must really be a carefully thought decision.
4. Establishing contacts. It will be wise to give the person numbers of suicide service centers such as 24-hour hotlines of psychological therapy clinics that he can get in touch with whenever he feels very down or depressed.
5. Rediscovering the joy of living. Suicidal persons may have forgotten the joy of living that they would most certainly miss if they choose to die. Therefore, “rediscovery” trips will be effective in making them realize that committing suicide will deprive them of so many wonders of the world, especially those activities that the person are very interested in.