Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Last night I have never been more thankful for taking so many classes I didn't need for my degree. I had one of my students text me about committing suicide. I had multiple counseling classes that touched on this subject. None of them prepared me for how draining it would be dealing with that kind of revelation form a student. None of them talked about how this could come after a particularly long day when you wouldn't even want to look at the message. There have been many times I get a message well after 11 that I don't see it because I've already put my phone away for the night or just don't feel like checking thinking I can look in the morning.

That is pretty hard to think that I may have missed something but God is good and I believe He ordained me to check this message. I believe He gave me the words I need and I believe this student will be ok for a little while longer. I want to talk about some of the things that went through my head from my training.

1- Don't tell someone "don't do it." I know it sounds weird but when someone is contemplating suicide they have thought it through several times and there is a process they go through. At some point they are thinking it through and consider the things people will tell them if they knew their plans. Often, very often, this includes someone saying "don't do it." Of course this doesn't mean you brush them off or worse tell them to do it. You have to try telling them not to do it without telling them not to do it. yeah I know that sounds impossible but it can be done.

2- Talk to them. Yeah this sounds simple enough but it can be really hard. You want to dominate and try and deal with whole "I'm gonna kill myself" thing. Ask them about what is happening and listen. People need to be heard.

3- If it is possible get them to think about things they can look forward to. This is especially good if you know them and things they are excited about. Often when in the middle of darkness it is hard to consider the future. If you can give them a good future to think about then things will be easier. Unfortunately this can be a minefield if you don't know enough. Talking about an event they were excited about that got canceled or that they can't attend could really backfire. This is where walking is so important.

4Try to get them to agree to talk with you at a specific time in the very near future. Often a little time will help a lot and putting specific commitment to meet with someone puts one more obstacle in the path of suicide. Just do everything in the world to be there.

5Pray. Pray a lot. Get others to pray. Seriously you can't handle this on your own. I say this last here but trust me it is the first, through the last step. It is that important.

Here's the deal these are the things you can try and do but chances are that you don't have the training you need. I don't and I've taken a lot of classes. This is one of those stepping up in an emergency situation like providing CPR and first aid. It is really important to try and point people in this place to qualified professionals who can give the required help. If you see someone have a bad accident and are the only person that can help then sure you will do first aid. You wouldn't try to do everything if there is a hospital down the road though. You would call 911 and try to do what you are capable of until paramedics arrive. They will do what they can until they get to the hospital where a doctor can take over.

This same thing applies to suicidal thoughts. This means that you should encourage the student (or adult if you are talking with an adult) to get help. This is not a sign of your failure. Let a trained counselor help equip them to take control of their life.


Helen said...

Praying for you, and the youngster.

Greg said...

This is a very serious issue indeed. A few things that I would add.

First, after letting them talk to you for as long as that takes, get them to sign a contract. Don't be pushy, of course, but if you can get them to agree to sign a contract that they won't kill themselves on purpose or on accident. (important) This will help, as you said, put another obstacle in the way. Be sure to include in there a promise to call you or the suicide hotline 1.800.SUICIDE (784-2433) if they have feelings of depression or committing suicide. Again, let them do most of the talking. Don't be pushy or try to "fix" them or the situation.

Second, don't leave them alone if at all possible. If you have to leave them, get another trusted person to be there with them.

Third, never brush them off. You did mention this, but it bears repeating. Someone who is suicidal is hurting and brushing them off could be the tragic nudge they need.

Finally, beware of someone who has been very depressed for a very long time and suddenly becomes happy, starts giving away prized possessions, or becomes preoccupied with death. These and other red flags are indicators of someone who has made a decision to kill themselves and they may not tell anyone.

I pray that you will be in tune with the Holy Spirit to know what to say and how to say it and that the young person will get the help they need to overcome their depression. It is okay to refer to a professional in your area. The suicide hotline should be able to point you in the right direction.

katdish said...


I am grateful that she seems to have made it over the first hurdle. Please know that I continue to pray.

And thanks for the post. Good advice, indeed.

Even though we kid around most of the time, you have my utmost respect and admiration. I hope you know that.

jasonS said...

Wow, I'll be praying too. I really appreciate the advice you gave -could really help a lot of people.


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