What To Do When You Believe Someone Is Contemplating Suicide:

The tragic choice of death over life makes no sense to the vast majority of our society. How could such a choice be such a “great consolation”? During the turbulent teenage years, children go through many physical, emotional and social changes. Their hormones rage and they may fall in love for the first time. Sexual identity and curiosity becomes an issue. Independence from parents seems to be a daily war not to mention all the educational and social challenges. Let”s not forget that the brain is also still developing with ability to now think abstractly.

Suicide in our society is a paradox. Although suicidal thoughts in times of crisis or emotional pain are fairly common, even attractive to those feeling desperate; there is great fear and cultural taboo that prevents open acknowledgment of it’s attraction. How do we handle a child when we are faced with this fear? Should we talk about it? Will talking about suicide push an adolescent further over the edge? Let’s take a look at four steps to follow which can give us great assurance when dealing with those struggling in the depths of their own despair.

Suicide is preventable and treatable. Following are four steps that will help protect anyone from suicide. They need to be put into place for every person you may suspect though in order to fully protect them.


1. A Promise to Keep Safe

Have the person you believe to be at risk agree not to act upon thoughts of suicide for a specific period of time. Another words, you can’t stop the person from having thoughts of suicide; but you can ask them to make a promise that they won’t act upon it today. Asking a person not to think about suicide would be virtually impossible and could cause them to shut you out; however, validating the pain they are in and asking them not to act upon it for a certain time period can be seen as a reasonable request despite their frame of mind. Too often, we think that by not talking about, we are keeping the person at bay. What in actuality is happening is they are thinking about it and don’t see another feasible way to handle their problem, the pain or the circumstances they are in.

Getting a commitment for a short time period does two (2) things. It buys you time to put some other help in place and secondly allows you the opportunity to open the discussion and allow them to express their feelings. Don’t be judgmental regardless of what they say. The goal of talking about their despair and hopelessness is not only to get a commitment of a "promise to stay safe" but to show you are a “safe” person to confide in. This shows that you care about them when they most likely are feeling very isolated and alone. When trying to find the right “time period” it is best to ask the person how long they could keep themselves safe. Contracting a promise to keep safe commitment usually goes something like this: “I agree to keep myself safe until after I meet with (________________). I can think about suicide but I must not act upon it”.