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Watching someone in distress is an overwhelming experience. It’s hard to know what to say or do to make the person feel better; to show them that you care.
Luckily, knowing how to screen for suicide by asking the right questions can help prevent a tragedy from occurring. Here are 6 important questions that are recommended by health professionals.
Please remember that these questions need to be included as part of a larger conversation that indicates real concern for the person suffering. Remember to ask these questions in a calm, reassuring manner that encourages trust between the two of you.
1. Have you ever wished that you were no longer living, or have you wanted to fall asleep and never wake up?
2. Have you had thoughts about killing yourself? (If yes to Question 2, move on to Questions 3,4,5,6. If No to Question 2, go directly to Question 6).
3. Have you thought about how you might commit suicide?
4. Do you have the intention of acting on these suicidal thoughts, as opposed to thoughts that you know you wouldn’t act on?
5. Have you worked out the details of how to kill yourself? Do you intend to carry out this plan?
6. In the past 3 months, have you done anything or prepared to do anything that would involve ending your life? (Always ask Question 6)
If you are worried about someone, but aren’t sure they have reached a place where suicide is an option, there are other questions to ask. These include:
1. You seem really depressed. How are you handling that, and do you plan to get help?
2. Do you ever think about hurting yourself in a passive way?
3. What do you think about your future? What are your plans?
4. Are you feeling hopeless or worthless?
5. Have you thought about getting help for your feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness?
If you are not sure what to make of the answers given, or if it seems like the entire truth is not being told, here’s some statements you can consider making:
1. I am worried about you. You know that you are loved, right?
2. Your family cares a lot about you and wants to know that you are ok.
3. I am scared that you may be thinking of hurting yourself because of _ or _.
4. If you need to talk to someone, I am here for you.
5. Sometimes it can help to talk to someone about these bad feelings.
Remember that it is always better to believe someone when they say they are thinking about suicide. If you see any warning signs or red flags, please remember to contact the National Suicide Prevention Line at 800-273-8255 or call 911.
Do not stop asking these questions if the person suffering has not gotten better after a few weeks. Regularly checking in and showing that you care can help prevent a tragedy from happening.
Do you struggle with depression, anxiety, or trauma? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.