Suicide attempts transcend race, ethnicity, gender, and age. They are becoming more and more prevalent amongst South Asians. Suicide attempts in the South Asians community have been documented from as early as the pre-teens. About 80% of people who commit suicide reach out and share their intent with someone, hoping to receive help. If you suspect a loved one is contemplating suicide, here are steps that you can take to ensure their safety.
Learn about the risk factors and warning signs. The more informed you are about red flags in suicide, the more likely you are to recognize these signs before a loved one attempts to put themself in harms way. Being educated and spreading awareness on the matter creates an alert community that works collectively to read the patterns of potential suicide.
Share your concern. In a private, distraction-free location, sit down with your loved one and express your worries for their safety. Be specific in what they have said or done that makes you concerned they are contemplating suicide. Provide advice that pertains particularly to them and let it be understood that you truly care.
Use the word. Do not be afraid of using the word suicide. Saying it out loud is not going to push them towards doing it if they were not considering it. In fact, by being straightforward, your loved one may trust you more to be able to help them with whatever is happening to them.
Avoid arguing, preaching, talking down and pleading. People who are contemplating suicide are carrying a heavy burden. Arguing with the feelings they share, stating that they shouldn’t feel a certain way, that their death will hurt too many people or that they have “so much to live for” are examples of invalidating comments and are likely to leave them feeling more isolated.
Ask questions. Instead of talking at your loved one, encourage a dialogue and ask questions. What have you been feeling? How long have you been feeling this way? What can I do to help you? Asking questions reassure the person that their life matters to the community surrounding them.
Validate. Reassure your loved one they are not alone and that help is available for them. Validate their feelings to help them feel loved and supported. “I can understand why you would feel….” is a simple yet powerful statement you can make.
Encourage professional help. Untreated mental illness is a large risk factor for suicide attempts and South Asian stigma against mental health treatment plays a significant role. Reassure your loved one that you will not judge them for obtaining professional help by talking to a physician or mental health professional. (Referrals to South Asian mental health professionals is available from MySahana). Many people contemplating suicide believe they cannot be helped. Offer to make an appointment for them or attend the appointment with them.
Take immediate action. Saying things like, “I just want to die tonight”, “No one will miss me if I take this knife and slit my wrist” or “It wouldn’t be hard to just sit in my car in the garage and leave it on overnight” are all examples of imminent threat. If your loved one is threatening to commit suicide or sharing specific plans that they have access to carry out, immediate action must be taken.
Do not leave this person alone.
Remove firearms, drugs and sharp objects that could be used as a method for hurting themselves.
Call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room