“Those problems weren’t enough to commit suicide over,” is often said by people who knew a completed suicide. You cannot assume that because you feel something is not worth being suicidal about, that the person you are with feels the same way. It is not how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting the person who has it. 2. Remember: suicidal behavior is a cry for help. Myth: “If someone is going to kill himself, nothing can stop him.” The fact that a person is still alive is sufficient proof that part of him wants to remain alive. The suicidal person is ambivalent – part of him wants to live and part of him wants not so much death as he wants the pain to end. It is the part that wants to live that tells another “I feel suicidal.” If a suicidal person turns to you it is likely that he believes that you are more caring, more informed about coping with misfortune, and more willing to protect his confidentiality. No matter how negative the manner and content of his talk, he is doing a positive thing and has a positive view of you. 3. Be willing to give and get help sooner rather than later. Suicide prevention is not a last minute activity. Unfortunately, suicidal people are afraid that trying to get help may bring them more pain: being told they are stupid, foolish, sinful, or manipulative; rejection; punishment; suspension from school; written records of their condition; or involuntary commitment. You need to do everything you can to reduce pain, rather than increase or prolong it. Constructively involving yourself on the side of life as early as possible will reduce the risk of suicide. 4. Listen. Give the person every opportunity to unburden his troubles and ventilate his feelings. You don’t need to say much and there are no magic words. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it. Give him relief from being alone with his pain; let him know you are glad he turned to you. At times everyone feels sad, hurt, or hopeless. You know what that’s like; share your feelings. Let the child know he or she is not alone. Avoid arguments and advice giving. If the child’s words or actions scare you, tell him or her. If you’re worried or don’t know what to do, say so. 5. ASK: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” Myth: “Talking about it may give someone the idea.” People already have the idea; suicide is constantly in the media. If you ask a despairing person this question you are doing a good thing for them: you are showing him that you care about him, that you take him seriously, and that you are willing to let him share his pain with you. You are giving him further opportunity to discharge pent up and painful feelings. If the person is having thoughts of suicide, find out how far along his ideation has progressed. 6. If the person is acutely suicidal, do not leave him alone. If the means are present, try to get rid of them. Detoxify the school or home. 7. Urge professional help. Persistence and patience may be needed to seek, engage and continue with as many options as possible. In any referral situation, let the person know you care and want to maintain contact. 8. No secrets. It is the part of the person that is afraid of more pain that says “Don’t tell anyone.” It is the part that wants to stay alive that tells you about it. Respond to that part of the person and persistently seek out a mature and compassionate person with whom you can review the situation. Distributing the anxieties and responsibilities of suicide prevention makes it easier and much more effective. Interventions with a suicidal student: Schools should have a written protocol for dealing with a student who shows signs of suicidal or other dangerous behavior. The following steps may be effective in dealing with a student who expresses active suicidal intent. 1. Calm the immediate crisis situation. Do not leave the suicidal student alone even for a minute. Ask whether he or she is in possession of any potentially dangerous objects or medications. If the student has dangerous items on his person, be calm and try to verbally persuade the student to give them to you. Do not engage in a physical struggle to get the items. Call administration or the designated crisis team. Escort the student away from other students to a safe place where the crisis team members can talk to him. Be sure that there is access to a telephone.