I participate in an online chat site where people of all ages from all around the world participate. There is a “Life Issues” forum where people can ask for help about their life. How can I help others who are posting questions and statements about suicide—how to commit it, pondering it, etc.? There are many people posting those subjects and I want to know how to help.
We’re glad to hear that you want to help prevent suicide. It is a tragedy that affects thousands and thousands of people across the US and many, many more across the globe. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24 year of age, and that in 2002, over 31,000 people died by suicide in the United States alone! That’s 1 person every 17 minutes.
It can be really difficult to reach someone that is feeling suicidal—and especially so when you only have contact with them through postings on a website—but there are some things that you can do.
1. Accept a person’s feelings as they are. Do not try to cheer them up by submitting positive, unrealistic postings. Do not joke about the situation that is causing them distress.
2. Be careful about what you type! Remember that you’re not speaking to them in person so you don’t have the advantage of vocal inflections. What you write can easily be misconstrued if you don’t take good care to construct your comments clearly.
3. Remind the person that depressed feelings do change over time and point out that when death is chosen, it is final—it cannot be changed.
4. Express your concern for the person and let them know that you hope they will not choose suicide, but rather will stick it out a little longer.
5. Develop a plan for help with the person. Mental health issues are often present in people that take their own lives. See if you can help them find some professional support by searching the web for a therapist or mental health clinic in their part of the country or world.
6. Do not be afraid to correspond about suicide directly. You will not be putting ideas into the person’s head. Writing about their suicidal thoughts may, in fact, relieve some of the pressure that they are feeling.
In the end, personal contact is often times the best bet, that’s why we operate The Trevor Helpline, 866.4.U.TREVOR (866.488.7386) for LGBT and questioning young people. The service is toll-free and open 24/7. Another option is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (800.273.8255), a great national 24/7 suicide prevention hotline.
Thank you for helping prevent suicides Jenn!