What I Learned When Conducting Suicide Intervention

You get to know people very quickly when you come together in times of crisis. Pressure situations tend to create a bond between people like no other and you get to learn a lot about the other person in a very short space of time.

Here's what I found in common with those who I conducted suicide intervention with;

·        The person often does not know how they got to where they are at that immediate moment. Reality is long forgotten, every negative thing in their life is as clear as though it happened just yesterday, their emotions are raw and any seemingly innocuous comment can cause an adverse reaction. 

·        The person's mind does not function as would a reasonable person. You cannot reason with them, you cannot tell them to "Snap out of it" nor to "Shake it off", "Harden up", or "Get on with life". They've tried to do that already.

·        Suicide is an emotional event, not a mental illness. They may have a mental illness which has impacted on their emotional brain and it is important not to confuse the two. They are simply in a state of turmoil from which they can see no escape.

·        The 'emotional brain' is what is driving them to take their own life. Often it is something that has occurred within the last 24 to 48 hours that has caused them to take the ultimate step but know that it is a battle that has been raging in their head for some time.

·        These are very brave people. Brave to want to kill themselves and even braver to hang on. Having battled for long periods, their brain is telling them to take their own life as part of the fight or flight response - "Here's a way to stop the pain". That’s what their brain is telling them. 

·        Suicide is not an act of cowardice or a sign of weakness; the opposite is mostly the case. The person believes that they are hurting others, the ones that they love, and so want to stop the hurt of others as well as themselves.

·        Sometimes the person can't do it, they can’t take the ultimate step, there is something that is holding them back. They are not seeking attention; they want to kill themselves but are confused as to what to do. This may then lead to a sense of embarrassment, a loss of face, even feelings of defeat during an intervention. That is why you must be trained to deal with these situations before attempting to help someone no matter how well-meaning your intentions.

·        I am proud of those who kept going, who waited for the negotiator to arrive, who listened to us, and who came away with us to get help.

·        I am also proud of those who work in this difficult area – most of us have a 100% success rate.

·        You can save a person who wants to kill themselves. They can recover. They can go on to bigger and better things. They just need to work through their pain, through their issues, through their emotions.

Do not judge those who have been suicidal, do not unfairly label them, and never blame them. They are some of the bravest people you are ever likely to meet. They have fought a battle with themselves and won.

For those who took the ultimate step, do not speak ill of them for you know not what they have suffered.