Talking about suicide

The Bristol Grandparents Support Group is one of 100s and 100s of voluntary organisations who support family members faced with stress or separation. They can be life-savers. In her blog, “Caller Responder”, Jane sets out a clear guideline so that we need never worry about talking about suicide.

Marc and Jane Jackson of Bristol Grandparents Support Group

Volunteer helplines may literally save lives, given the stretched and sometimes harmful limitations of statutory or legal services. Jane Jackson coordinates and is a responder on the Bristol-based international organisation. Listening to people whose hearts are breaking she says is heart-rending for the helper too.

But Jane writes that “the first few minutes really can be a life and death moment. Talking carefully about suicide will not make things worse. The caller’s courageous first step shows in their picking up the phone. By calling, they are inviting the question: Are you having suicidal thoughts?”

Hear Ask Support

One approach is “HAS”: Hear, Ask, Support. The responder needs to think about what level of risk the caller is describing.

The most important thing as a responder is to listen, with empathy and no judgement.

Jane Jackson, Bristol Grandparents Support Group

Listening leads to discussing a safety plan. This puts the control back to the caller and focuses them on setting out their own plan. Jane explains more under seven headings:

1/ Getting through right now. 2/ Making your situation safer. 3/ Things to lift or calm your mood. 4/ Things to distract. 5/ People to support you. 6/ Specific support for distress, self-harm or suicide. And, 7/ Emergency professional support.

A caller may value phrases like these:

“These feelings will pass.” “You got through rough times before, you can again.” “You do matter.” “You are valued.” “Focus on 30 seconds at a time, focus on getting through the next 15 minutes.”

Jane Jackson, Bristol Grandparents Support Group

A competent volunteer has this kind of structure and training before they provide such life-saving emotional support. But Jane’s blog helps us all to better engage, calm down and know what to do with such important frontline responding. We must never be worried about talking about suicide.

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