Depression & Suicide: Yes You Can Help (General Guidelines)

If a friend or another student wants to talk to you about his or her feelings of depression or about suicide, or if you think that someone may be acting suicidal or depressed, it may be difficult to know exactly what to do. These general guidelines will help. (Where possible, it is recommended that you have the underlying concepts and procedures described in these guidelines explained by a professionally trained counselor.)

  • Always treat such talk or behavior seriously. Don’t believe that “it’s just attention-seeking”.
  • Do not promise to keep such talk or behavior a secret; it is one secret you should not keep. It’s too risky.
  • Do not give quick advice or say ” everything will be alright.”
  • Be an active listener. Do a lot of listening and little talking. Let the person know you are hearing what they are saying. Try paraphrasing to check whether you are accurately hearing what is being said.
  • Remember that it is okay to ask the person if they have been thinking about suicide. It won’t “put the idea in their head.”
  • Help the person explore his or her feelings . Do not add to possible guilt by saying things such as ” think how your family and friends will feel”
  • Don’t discount the individual’s feelings of crisis by saying ” things aren’t as bad” or ” that’s not true, you have lots of friends”.
  • Show and describe your concern and caring to the person.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk openly about the suicidal thoughts. Try to determine whether or not the person has a plan or has attempted suicide earlier.
  • Do not debate whether or not suicide is right or wrong. To do so may add guilt or feeling of worthlessness.
  • Discussions of this nature do not always progress in a straight forward manner. It may be necessary to check on some point or another. If you miss something or it becomes obvious that you “should”have said something else, don’t worry. Apologize and return to what was missed or say what you think needs saying.
  • Remember: You can often be a help just by being there to talk to. Many suicidal crises are immediate and short-term. By talking and listening you may move the person from feelings of ” self-death” to “self-life”.
  • Encourage the person to go to a counselor, minister or parent for additional help. If they won’t and risk remains, contact someone for them. You might consider:
    1. Contacting the person’s parents
    2. bringing in the counselor
    3. contacting the school’s psychologist
    4. accompanying the person to a walk-in clinic
    5. phoning the family doctor
    6. staying with him or her until help arrives
    7. taking him or her to a mental health center

      Be aware of what community support systems or resources are available.

  • If the risk seems high or immediate, do not leave the person alone or send them for help. If possible, remove the means( pills ,car keys).
  • Continue to be involved. Let the person know you care beyond the immediate crisis.

NOTE: In any case, this is a difficult situation. You don’t have to cope with it by yourself and it’s probably wise not to do so. If you have any doubts, get assistance.

© 1997-2002, RCMP Program. All rights reserved.

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One thought on “Depression & Suicide: Yes You Can Help (General Guidelines)

  • Rosemary

    More than one million people die globally every year by suicide.Suicide being the 2nd leading cause a death for youth; the stats from USA are that LGBTTTIQ are3 30 to 40 % higher (I attempted to get Canadian stats for a research paper I was writing in 2004 and could not find any Canadian )”Bringing youth voices out of the closet ; Are you asking the rigth questions to prevent suicide”
    We need to foster protective and resilent factors our youth to blance the risk factors. One way we can do this is by havinf postive out adult role models living relatively normal and stable lives