In case anyone still believes the myth that discussing suicide increases the likelihood that someone will take their own life, you need to know that research has shown that this is not true.
This message may have become mixed up with what some people see as the ‘copy-cat’ behaviour of some young people if suicide is mentioned in the media. To be clear – these are two separate issues.
Fortunately people are starting to talk about suicide and the impact it has on our rainbow communities. Two recent events in Auckland that focused on this were:
- The LGBTTI Wellness and Suicide Symposium: a successful collaboration of the Auckland District Health Board, OUTLine, Rainbow Youth, Affinity Services and the Mental Health Foundation. Information from the Symposium can be found on the SPINZ (Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand) website at www.spinz.org.nz.
- The Suicide Prevention Workshop run by Mani Bruce Mitchell and Sharon Jones, which was another fabulous training opportunity. It was sponsored by Rainbow Youth and more information is available on their website at www.rainbowyouth.org.nz.
If you are worried that someone may be having suicidal thoughts then ask them! But I hear you say “that’s easier said than done” and you’re right. Suicide is one of those taboo subjects which everyone skirts around.
So if you think someone is thinking about suicide, take a deep breath and gently ask them (in your own words) “are you thinking you would like to kill yourself?” If they say yes, you need to stay calm and take time to:
- Listen: This can be enough. Let them tell you about their thoughts without shutting them down. Remember to be understanding without judgement. Suicide may seem a selfish act to you, but the person could be in such a terrible place they may really believe the world is better without them.
- Take it seriously: Stay with them until you know they are safe.
- Try to establish the following: Does the person have a plan? The more detailed the plan, the more realistic, then the greater the risk. For example: “I am going to take (specific) pills, I have them at home now and I am going home now to take them,” indicates more risk than: “Oh I might take pills or something.”
- Help them get help: Identify someone who can be with them. Again, show caring and encouragement to seek help.
- And remember to support: Don’t laugh at or shame the person, encourage the use of alcohol and other drugs to feel better, get angry at them, tell them to snap out of it or ignore them.
If you think the likelihood of suicide or a suicide attempt is very high, let others know. This could mean calling the Mental Health Crisis Team on 0800 800 717 or even 111.
Remember there are Rainbow Counsellors at OUTLine (0800 OUTLINE), available both on the phone and for one-to-one sessions. This could be very useful for anyone you know who is grappling with sexual orientation and/or gender identity issues as well.
Any one of us may be the person someone reaches out to so let’s all be prepared!
| Diana Rands
As always, if you have concerns about your own or someone else’s alcohol and or drug use, or if you’d like more information about our groups, contact CADS on 845 1818 or www.cads.org.nz. If you live outside Auckland, contact the Alcohol and Drug Helpline on 0800 787 797.