Suicide

Immediate concerns:

1. If there is any indication of a suicide attempt in process or imminent, call in the police, paramedics, or mental health team, or intervene yourself.

2. Try to determine where the person is as quickly as possible.

3. A suicidal person may be dangerous to others; find out what weapons or other dangers (gas, carbon monoxide) may be present.

Keep in mind:

1. Your primary goal is to keep someone alive. Only later have you the leisure to work on bettering the personís motivation or theology.

2. The person contacted you for a reason. Diplomacy and warmth may maintain that contact; hope and caring may forestall a suicide attempt.

3. Any threat of suicide ought to be taken seriously.

4. You didnít cause the personís problems, and you may not be able to fix them. Your responsibility is to try to help; you cannot be held responsible to succeed. The person may die.

Things to do or say:

1. Keep the person talking. Itís hard for him or her to talk to you and follow through on suicide plans.

2. Show love, compassion, concern, respect; absorb anger, accusations, bitterness, manipulation.

3. Defuse the suicide plan if possible. Have the person flush drugs down the toilet, unload or dismantle a firearm, seek company, promise to call you before doing anything rash, etc.

4. Offer better options than suicide. You can probably see many where the caller sees none.

5. Remember to pray the person to safety, too.

Things not to do or say:

1. Do not make light of the situation. This threat could be a final try for help, even if it appears far-fetched.

2. Do not load on guilt over thoughts of suicide. Most suicidal people carry a heavy load already.

3. Do not leave the person alone. A relative, friend, neighbor, or fellow church member needs to remain with him or her.

4. Do not allow your anxiety to show. The caller needs a calm, controlled, capable presence to counter his or her emotional imbalance.

For further study:

Berkley, J. D. (1989). Called into crisis: the nine greatest challenges of pastoral care (Vol. 18, pp. 178Ė179). Carol Stream, IL; Dallas, TX: Christianity Today; Word Books.