Try to avoid ‘fixing’ the situation
Focus on listening to them in order to understand and validating their experience and show them that they aren’t alone with it. This might look like, validating and showing acceptance by repeating their experience back to them; and using phrases such as:
1. “You are not alone.”
2. “You are important, and I care about you and your safety.”
3. “I can’t imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try and understand.”
4. “That must have been difficult.”
Try to understand a bit more of how they are feeling and any actions they have taken, this will inform your next steps:
• How long they’ve been feeling this way?
• Whether how they feel fluctuates in intensity?
• Have they thought about ways to end their life?
• Have they made a plan to end their life?
• Is there a specific date or time they are planning to?
If they are in immediate danger, call for support and stay with them.
Seek to understand with them their current experience. Ask them about their reasons for dying, and their reasons for living/ or simply what matters to them and listen to the answers. This can support hope and self-efficacy.
Talk through steps they can take to stay safe, known as making a ‘Safety Plan’.
Support them to plan to access help (e.g. (additional) support from their doctor or named health professional, support from their family and social network, support from a charity or local group). This will involve talking with them about what form of support they would feel comfortable with accessing, any barriers they are facing and what help or support they need to seek this help. Clarify next steps for both them and you.
Get support for yourself. If the person is a patient, speak the situation through with your supervisor or team lead, as another perspective will help you to provide the best care for them. Supporting someone thinking of suicide or in suicidal crisis can give rise to a range of emotions, some of which are difficult to cope with and may impact on your wellbeing, particularly when under pressure or facing additional stressors. If you feel comfortable, speak these experiences through with your supervisor, a colleague, or in peer supervision.
Alternatively, there are services which offer confidential support to those providing care to people experiencing suicidal thoughts or crisis.