Intervening to save the life of a suicidal youth means conveying a sense of hope: you must be warm and very, very human in your approach. A spirit of simplicity and humility on your part is absolutely necessary. Without humility in your heart, you’ll never find the right way to approach a distressed person. You want to convey, from the heart, why life is worthwhile, and what can be done to alleviate the sufferer’s emotional burdens.
The following advice is the product of trial and error, of years of efforts by many, many suicide prevention workers, including Raymond Viger. Here, then, is how you should approach a suicidal teen, youth, or anyone in such deep distress, for that matter:
Know Your Limits
It goes without saying that any support you can offer the suicidal person on first contact may save a life. But there are things beyond your capacity. You can’t be with the sufferer 24/7. You have to live to fight another day, to help another one. Know what you can and cannot offer. Make these limits clear to the sufferer as soon as you think they can handle the information.
When we set limits on our intervention, we have to make sure there are other resources there. Set things up so that there are people to carry the torch when you’re not around. Make sure that the suicidal person knows exactly what, who and where these resources are.
Convince the person to draw upon them. Make sure he or she knows that there is no stigma in getting help from places outside of yourself.
Book excerpt from Quebec Suicide Prevention Handbook (2014), Éditions TNT
Suicide Prevention Hotlines:
Québec: 1-866-APPELLE (277-3553). CLSCs can also help you.
Canada: Canada Suicide Prevention Service 833-456-4566
U.S.: The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).