Having Conversations with a Friend is Suicide Prevention

Author: Janeane Krongos Tillamook Family Counseling Center
A friend has the ability to notice when their friends change. Sometimes the changes that they notice are positive changes (improved mood, improved health, improved relationship, adoption of positive hobby, improved self-esteem, or improved living situation), while other times the changes that they notice are a sign that their friend is thinking about suicide. Because a friend has the ability to notice changes, it is important for them to be familiar with suicide warning signs and to be prepared to have conversations with a friend about suicide when necessary.

In most cases, a person who is thinking about suicide will begin to exhibit suicide warning signs. Suicide warning signs typically appear in three categories, the categories include, talk (the way they talk about themselves or their future), behavior (the things that they are doing), or mood (how they are feeling). Common suicide warning signs include: saying that they want to die, searching for means to end their life, extreme mood swings, changes in sleep, increased substance use, increased gambling, untimely goodbyes, giving away treasured possessions, and isolating themselves from others. To learn more about suicide warning signs, I recommend reviewing the National Institute of Mental Health’s fact sheet titled Warning Signs of Suicide. The fact sheet is located at www.nimh.nih.gov.

If you notice suicide warning signs in a friend, it would be beneficial to have a conversation with them about suicide. Continue reading this column for some practical conversation tips.

Before the conversation:

• Program local and national crisis hotlines in your phone. Two to consider are the Tillamook County 24/7 Crisis Hotline (503)842-8201 and the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (988).

• Identify local organizations that offer mental health services. Gather the following information about the organizations: website, contact information, street address, and hours of operation.

• Select a meeting date and time that will allow you enough time to have an unrushed conversation with your friend.

• Select meeting location that is private, familiar, safe, and free of distractions.

During the conversation:

• Let your friend know you care about them.

• Let your friend know that you have observed some changes that have concerned you (changes can be suicide warning signs or changes in behavior).

• Ask your friend how they are doing.

• Listen to what your friend is telling you by practicing active listening. To learn about active listening review Very Well Mind’s article titled What Is Active Listening?, this article can be found at www.verywellmind.com.

• Ask your friend if they are having thoughts about suicide.

• Reflect on the conversation and consider what type of support your friend would benefit from.

How to support your friend:

• Provide your friend with emotional support.

• Connect your friend to someone who has been known to help in similar situations.

• Provide your friend with contact information for local health service providers.

• If your friend is having thoughts about suicide, encourage them to program crisis hotlines into their phone. At this time, you can provide them with the crisis hotlines that you have programed in your phone.

• Encourage your friend to use environmental strategies to keep their home safe. Examples of environmental strategies include: disposing of unused or expired prescription medication, locking up prescription medication in a lock box, locking up firearms in a safe, and having someone trustworthy change the combination to a firearm safe.

After the conversation:

• Check in with your friend to see how they are doing.

• Provide your friend with emotional support.

• Repeat the conversation as needed.

If would like to learn more about how to have conversations about suicide, I encourage you to consider participating in a suicide prevention training. One training I would like to highlight in this column is the Question, Persuade, and Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper training. This training is an evidence based suicide prevention training that has been used worldwide. Tillamook Family Counseling Center (TFCC), provides the QPR Gatekeeper trainings every other month or as requested. Since September 2020, TFCC staff has trained 228 community members in the QPR Gatekeeper training. The next QPR Gatekeeper training will be presented virtually on September 9th, from 10:00AM-11:30AM. If you are interested in signing up for this training email me at Janeanek@tfcc.org.

I hope that this column has been helpful to you. If you questions about the column please feel free to email me at Janeanek@tfcc.org.
You can see the column on the Tillamook Headlight Herald, by visiting: https://www.tillamookheadlightherald.com/news_free/having-conversations-with-a-friend-is-suicide-prevention/article_59b9aad0-cf72-54d1-a77d-ae26c2616dc4.html

September 19, 2022

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