Health Suicide How to help someone who is thinking of suicide Supporting a friend or someone you care about who is experiencing suicidal thoughts can be intimidating, but there are ways you can help. Some factors that uniquely affect LGBTQ+ people contribute to mental health issues in the community. Levels of depression, anxiety, self-harm, and loneliness are much higher in queer people than the general population. These, alongside other factors can contribute to suicidal thoughts in the LGBTQ+ community. Because suicidal feelings are more common for us, it is sometimes easier for people to ignore their feelings or brush them off. That's one reason why providing effective support to queer friends and family who are thinking about ending their life is so important. What to do if you're concerned about someone It can be an emotional experience to hear a friend or a loved one say they no longer want to be alive. But there are ways you can help them cope with their feelings and move forward. Confirming suicidal thoughts Don’t be afraid to ask, “are you having thoughts of suicide?”. Studies show that it does not increase suicidal thoughts if you ask at-risk friends and family members if they are thinking about suicide. Asking can possibly provide valuable information about how to help. The majority of people will say that they have made no definite plans. This is still a serious situation, if their answers indicate that they don’t have a plan, it's still important to hear what they have to say. Listen and provide assistance that they may need. You can urge them to seek professional help as soon as possible. It is important to be gentle and not force anything. If the conversation leads you to believe that they are in immediate danger, you may want to take immediate action. If someone has hurt themselves, has said they plan to end their life, or has already attempted so and you think their injuries are life-threatening, you can call 999 for an ambulance or you can contact Samaritans and they can call an ambulance for you. Call 116 123 to speak to a trained volunteer. Some signs to look out for: • Feeling restless and agitated • Feeling angry and aggressive • Feeling tearful • Being tired or lacking in energy • Not wanting to talk to or be with people • Not wanting to do things they usually enjoy • Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings • Finding it hard to cope with everyday things • Not replaying to messages or being distant • Talking about feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless • Talking about feeling trapped by life circumstances they can’t see a way out of, or feeling unable to escape their thoughts • A change in routine, such as sleeping or eating more or less than normal • Engaging in risk-taking behaviour, like gambling or violence. Showing Support There are a number of things that one can do to be a supportive and empathetic friend. The key here, is to avoid being judgmental or dismissive of what your friend is feeling. Speak From the Heart If you are speaking out of love and concern, just be yourself and show that you care. Talk to them, hold them while they cry, or just spend time with them. Acknowledging what people are experiencing can help process their thoughts. Listen A suicidal person usually is carrying around some burden that they feel they cant hold onto anymore. Offer to listen as they share what they are feeling. Here are some tips to engage in active listening: • Give them all of you attention—making eye contact and putting away all types of distractions • Have patience—a person may not be immediately be ready to open up. Creating a safe space through non-judgmental listening can help a person feel comfortable enough to open up. • Use open questions—this allows for the person to think and reflect on their feelings as well as encourages them to talk. • Say it back—repeating something back demonstrates that you have given someone your undivided attention. • Don’t be afraid of silence or negative responses. You will be able to tell if someone is not comfortable enough to talk at that level. Avoid Trying to Solve the Problem Try not to offer quick solutions or belittle the person’s feelings. Rational arguments do little good to persuade a person when they are in this state of mind. Instead, offer compassion for what they are feeling without making any judgments about why they feel that way. Take Care of Yourself Caring for someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts an be very stressful and can take a toll on the friend providing support. Be sure to take care of yourself as well. Talk to someone you trust, a therapist, anyone who can offer you support for what you have been through and how you are feeling. Mental health is important, some ways to look after yourself is by: • Allowing yourself to take a mental health break—you know when you’ll need one and you know you’ll be more productive if you give yourself time to relax and recharge. • Avoid felling guilty—try to not feel bad about experiencing negative emotions, they’re natural. Allow yourself to notice your feelings without judging them as good or bad. • Notice the positive—taking the time to notice the positive things helps you experience a better day. • Keeping active—going on walks through the park or going exploring through a different part of town can help you feel connected to the things around you. • Keeping in touch with friends—connecting with people that play an important role in your life can help you feel grounded and can help you gather strength from others. Seeking Emergency Help If you or someone you care about is experiencing suicidal thoughts and need support you can contact Samaritans. They run a confidential, 24/7 phone line that will listen and provide guidance. If you or someone you know are at risk of harming themselves, you should call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance. Supporting a friend or someone you care about who is experiencing suicidal thoughts can be intimidating. It is important to do your best to provide support and get help. What Next? Switchboard 0300 330 0630 — the longest-running helpline for LGBTQ+ people that provides support through phone, email ([email protected]) and instant messaging. LGBT Foundation 0345 3 30 30 30 — LGBT Foundation is based in Manchester but offers country-wide support to LGBTQ+ people through its helpline. Mindline Trans + 0300 330 5468 — Emotional and mental health support helpline for anyone identifying as transgender, non-binary, genderfluid. They also support family members, friends, colleagues and carers.