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.