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Understanding the risks
If someone you know has recently been affected by a suicide, it is important for you to know that they may be at risk of suicide themselves.
People who knew someone who suicided are at risk because they can experience a range of difficult emotions such as shock, disbelief or even anger alongside many unanswered questions including ‘Could I have done anything to prevent it?’ and ‘Why did he/she do it?’.
The grieving process
It is important to know that these types of emotions and thoughts are normal grief reactions and are very common amongst people bereaved by suicide.
Feelings associated with grief and loss vary and people may experience sadness, anger, anxiety, shock, panic, relief, numbness or guilt. Following a death by suicide, many grief responses are significantly intensified and may be overwhelming.
We can only do the best we can
Sometimes suicide still occurs even when someone has tried to help and this can reflect many complex factors. Being the person who acknowledged the problem and tried to help does not mean that they are responsible if the person then goes on to complete suicide.
Talking about it is more helpful than silence
When you are worried about someone you care about (whether it is a partner, friend or family member) it is sometimes hard to know how to offer them help. You may have sensed that they are feeling hopeless or you may have identified some warning signs of suicide. It is important to offer them help and direct them to professional support. It is equally important to look after yourself. It will be difficult to ask the hard question “Are you thinking of suicide?” but it may save a life.
If you decide to help someone affected by suicide here are some suggestions that might help:
Plan a time to talk without interruptions. Listen to him or her without judgement and reassure them that you care.
Be direct in asking “Are you thinking of suicide?”, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”, “Are you thinking of ending your life?”. It is a myth that you put the idea into someone’s head by asking this.
It can be hard to ask this question when you are face to face with someone you care about so it would help to practice saying these words so you are prepared when you need to have the conversation.
Asking them directly can lead to getting them the help they need.
Do not leave the person at risk alone or promise not to tell anyone that they are having suicidal thoughts.
Together choose an appropriate support person – this might be a doctor or VVCS counsellor and offer to make and take them to an appointment.
Remember to look after yourself and seek help for yourself if needed.