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 #JamesDonaldson on #MentalHealth – What To Do When Someone Tells You They Feel Suicidal

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By Manish Pandey

Illustration of person sitting alone

It can be hard to know how to react when someone close to you reveals they’re struggling with their #mentalhealth and want to take their own life.

What do you say or do?

Tonight, a documentary on Caroline Flack airs on Channel 4, looking at the events leading up to the TV presenter’s #suicide in 2020.

And on Monday, presenter Roman Kemp opened up about his own struggles with #mentalhealth and the #suicide of his close friend Joe Lyons for a BBC Three documentary.

We’ve been speaking to Alex Dodd, a volunteer from #mentalhealth charity Samaritans about what to do when someone opens up about their difficulties.

#JamesDonaldson notes:

Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.

Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.

Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

Take them seriously

“You can’t solve their problems and you don’t know what they’re going through,” Alex says.

“But if someone tells you about suicidal thoughts, just always take them seriously.”

Caroline Flack
Caroline Flack took her own life in February 2020

Alex explains it’s crucial to provide an environment where they have the courage to open up and feel supported.

“That’s one of the hardest things that people can do, is to have that initial contact, and talk about how they’re feeling.”

Alex adds it can be human nature to interrupt with our own feelings, but it’s vital not to do that.

Keep calm and don’t judge

This is “one of the hardest things” especially when it’s a family member, Alex explains.

“But they just want to open up, they can’t think about anything. You staying calm is a really good thing to do at first.”

Illustration of friends holding hands
Make them feel comfortable enough to open up, Alex says

It’s important to give them the space to talk and not ask about stuff which could imply judgement.

“Asking questions like: ‘What do you think your family will feel? How will they feel if you leave this world?’ will make them feel really judged.”

“They will just close up and not open up again to you.”

Instead, ask open questions

The first thing Alex does is thank someone for calling and let them know she’s there to help them work through how they are feeling – to try and make them comfortable to share more.

Open questions are a good way to get someone to talk, such as: “Can you tell me a bit more about why you’re feeling this way? What made you get to this point?”

She says it’s OK to ask about support networks and if they’ve received help before.

Illustration of a woman caring for a man
A loved one might get very emotional, so it’s important to support them and stay calm yourself

“It’s talking around how it got to that point and why they feel they can’t go on any longer.”

But don’t just ask questions all the time.

“It’s actually letting them speak, providing that silence for them, and just letting them get it off their chest.”

Give physical support if need be

Our natural instinct might be to hug someone (#Covid restrictions permitting), but the main thing is to make them feel comfortable.

“Some people don’t like being hugged and would rather you keep that distance from them.

Illustration of a young woman caring for her crying best friend
Physical contact can help the person feel cared for

“But if you are close to that person, and you know that a hug or that close contact would help, don’t be afraid to hold their hand.

“Human contact is fantastic for building that bridge to physically know that someone’s there,” she adds.

Point them towards further help

Alex suggests giving advice on things they can do, such as speaking to a doctor or calling a support line.

“But if you feel that somebody is in immediate danger, you can call 999.”

Alex Dodd
Alex is a volunteer with #mentalhealth charity Samaritans

She says ultimately, it has to be the person’s decision to take the next step in getting help.

“But the fact they have opened up is a sign that they do want help and want to work through this.”

“Feelings are only temporary. So it’s getting to that point where they can say: ‘This is my next step’.”

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