We STRIKE at suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviours by listening: listening patiently, listening without judgement. Just listening.
We want to listen to the person’s reasons for feeling suicidal, to their deep sense of isolation, or their hopelessness or despair.
We can do this by asking open questions like:
- How has suicide come into your life?
- What has made you think about suicide?
- Where does it hurt emotionally?
We don’t need to be trained counsellors to do this. We just need to show that we care.
We must avoid giving advice. We must avoid trying to come up with solutions to problems. We must avoid making comparisons with ourselves or trying to identify with them by talking about our own experiences. This is about them and taking the time to let them know that we value them, that they are important to us, that their feelings are important and that they are worth listening to.
If they don’t want to talk, or just can’t talk then, we can still be there for them, letting them know that we want to support them, even if that means sitting in silence.
The Samaritans have good advice on active listening tips. They use the pneumonic ‘SHUSH.’
- S – SHOW you care.
- Focus on the person at risk. Make eye contact. Put away your phone. Give them your full attention. Go the extra mile.
- H – HAVE patience.
- It may take time and several attempts before a person is ready to open up. You need to create trust. The person at risk must not be rushed. They must feel safe. They must go at their own pace. Don’t be afraid of pauses or silence. Speaking about and articulating feelings is not easy.
- U – USE open questions,
- that can’t just be answered with Yes or No. Open questions encourage a person to reflect and talk. Open questions invite the person at risk to tell you more and expand. Don’t ask questions that impose a view or tell the person how they are feeling. The person at risk must feel safe and that there is no right or wrong answer.
- S – Say it back.
- Let the person at risk know that you have been listening and paying attention. You could repeat something back to the person at risk to reassure them they have your undivided attention. You could check with them that you are hearing what they want you to hear, not your interpretation, or what they think you want to hear. Check you’ve understood. Don’t interrupt. Don’t offer a solution.
- H – Have courage.
- Don’t be put off by a negative response, and most importantly don’t feel that you have to fill a silence. If you’re not the right person for them to talk to, that’s OK. You can ask them if there is someone else who they can trust with their pain and thoughts about suicide.
We STRIKE at suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviours by listening: listening patiently, listening without judgement, listening actively and effectively.
And then we EXPLOIT by helping the person keep themselves safe from suicide.
The next video will help you EXPLOIT suicide’s weaknesses