“Preparing to Ask Someone About Suicide” by Alexandra Eisner
First thing’s first, take a deep breathe. You’re about to embark into a tough conversation but these conversations are desperately needed in our society today. Tough conversations allow us to be vulnerable, open-minded and steer our future into a better direction. However, please find peace in knowing that talking about suicide will not cause a person to become suicidal, but it may save their life.
We only have so much influence over the direction of our life, and that includes the people in it. Just like you cannot force the lady in front of you at the checkout line to move faster, you cannot force your children, sibling, partner, friend or coworker to do something they truly don’t want to do. As close as you may be with the person you’re preparing to have the discussion about suicide with, you still do not have control over the natural birth right of free will.
The intention behind this conversation is to support the person without judgement. Keep in mind that the word “support” does not mean “fix”. It’s imperative that you remind yourself of this throughout the conversation. This individual is a human with a heart, just like you and I, who needs support. So, we are creating a safe space where they can share their scary, sad or seemingly bad thoughts and story.
A safe space means setting a private space where this conversation can be held without interruption or being overheard. A familiar place for the other person is also helpful. The more comfortable, private and safe, the more we as humans naturally relax. When we feel relaxed, listened to and safe, we more easily open up to be vulnerable.
Lastly, and most importantly, remember to protect yourself mentally and energetically. In training to become a Counselor on the Suicide Prevention Crisis Line, I was taught how to spot child abuse but I was not taught how to mentally or energetically separate myself from the callers stories. This is one of the most important tools I developed for myself in being able to take over 600 Hotline calls today.
We don’t truly know how deep someones dark hole goes or what twists and turns may come up throughout the conversation. If you don’t separate yourself from the other persons story, you’re not putting yourself first. You’re going to get consumed by their story, it’s going to fester inside of you and soon we’ll have two people who need support instead of one.
A tool I developed to separate yourself is, to imagine you are suited up from head to toe in armor. For example, my typical armor is all black and worn out looking leather. Think Katniss Everdeen, not Catwoman. And every time I am driving to my shift, I imagine I’m suiting up. One foot and one arm at a time, slowly shielding myself. And after the shift, once I’m in my safe space, I remove the armor. I challenge you to come up with your own imaginary armor. Make it out of any color, style or texture that you wish!
Now you are prepared to have the suicide conversation with the safe space, supportive mindset and protected energy. Please keep an eye out for a blog post next week on tips for during the conversation. Including what questions to ask, how to ask it and more.
To learn more about Alexandra, LiveLong Movement, suicide prevention hotlines and resources, go to: www.LiveLongMovement.org
For crisis support, please call Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
Or visit the Facebook & Instagram @LiveLong_Movement
To hear Alex’s interview on The LIFE CHANGES Show go to: https://lifechangesnetwork.com/suicide-prevention-talking-to-save-lives-with-guest-alexandra-eisner-and-musical-guests-the-waters-on-show-582/