BADGE OF LIFE - TALKING TO THE SUICIDAL PERSON

A Study of Police Suicide in 2008-2016
Girl's Letter to School
Police Suicide - What It ISN'T
Master Police Coaches - Building a Better Cop
PTSD - The "Hidden Injury"
Police Suicide - Making a Difference
The Importance of Therapy
Police Suicide - the SOLUTIONS
Interview with the BOL Chairman
So-Called "Helpers"
A MATTER OF PUBLIC TRUST
2016 Police Suicide Study
Annual Mental Health Checks
Stigma - The Human Stain
2016 Police Suicides: the NSOPS Study
Police Stress vs Trauma--a difference?
Does PTSD Cause Violence? from the Badge of Life
A New Police Suicide Prevention Program for the 21st Century
Police Suicide, Just a Bad Choice?
Chiefs Lead the Way
"Bring a Buddy"
Cumulative PTSD - a Silent Killer
Dealing with a Suicidal Police Officer

Talking to the Suicidal Person (for emergency responders)

 

The world of depression and suicide is a dark, murky one that’s hard for “outsiders” to understand.  No one truly wants to die—that defies the human instinct to survive and continue on.  Depression is a heaviness that suffocates, that darkens the sun and casts the person into a seemingly eternal, turbulent night.  Suicide, which is depression out of control, is akin to standing on a burning floor in the World Trade Center.  The floors below you are consumed and the flames are licking at your back as you stand at the window.  You have only one of two choices—to either burn a slow and terrible death or jump from the window to escape the pain.  That’s what suicide is—an attempt to escape a pain that seems as bad as burning in a gasoline fire for eternity.  Standing at ground level, how would you judge this person?  You have no such right—because you’re not standing on the window ledge hearing the screams behind you and feeling the flames licking at your back.

The one thing that is hard for the suicidal person to understand is that there really is refuge from the pain.  To communicate this calls for compassion, empathy, and an effort to assure the person that they are not alone.  This is best accomplished by showing the person you understand the dynamics of depression and suicide and that you realize suicide seems, for the moment, to be the “only way” to escape the pain of what is troubling them.  Above all, let the person talk.  Do not label or judge the person. 

 

Do not be afraid to use words like, “caring,” “loving” and “accepting.” The right words are important, and allow them to show in your voice.  It is imperative that the person understand that, regardless of what has brought them to this stage, they can survive it and be cared for in a compassionate way by others who have “been there” and/or who dedicate their lives to helping others. As one psychologist put it, “There is no such thing as no hope.”  Let the suicidal person know that there is not only hope, but that their life is important to you.  Avoid saying things like, “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family” or, worse, “Look on the bright side.”  Stay away from patronizing statements like, "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem."  These only open up arguments.  Again, empathy and the offer of caring, professional help are crucial.

 

If a peer support officer is available, take advantage of them either directly or in an advisory capacity.  These officers are also trained in the symptoms of suicide and how to talk with a potential victim.

 

Most importantly, listen.  Allow the person to vent their emotions, fears and anger and encourage them to talk about their motives for suicide.  Time is on your side.  If they show any openness to alternatives, take advantage of it and keep them talking about them.  Remember, the suicidal person often feels cornered, trapped and isolated.  Your job is to help them feel included--and part of the solution.


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