55 SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS What is intervention? Intervention is the act of having a conversation with someone who is considering suicide – meeting them in their moment of crisis and supporting them to stay safe for now. A person at the point of suicidal crisis has typically lost all hope and sees no alternative to their deep, psychological pain than death. They describe feeling overwhelmed, stuck, and not being able to see a way out. They’re experiencing internal conflict (or ambivalence): they want to live but they want the unbearable pain to end. When someone reaches out to the person thinking about suicide, they see that people do care about them, and that their life does matter.They’re not alone and help is available. Intervention can be a lasting solution to suicidal crisis for certain individuals. Studies have found that 90% of people who were in the process of acting on their plan to die by suicide but were stopped before attempting – either by a passerby, security staff, or police – did not go on to attempt suicide ever again (Seiden, 1978). Another reason intervention is so powerful: people who think about suicide are desperate for human connection, and intervention gives them that connection they’re seeking. One man who died by suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco wrote in his suicide note: “If one person smiles at me, I will not jump” (Friend, 2003, p.6). Myths Talking about suicide will cause someone to think about suicide. This is a myth. Asking someone directly, ‘Are you considering suicide?’ actually reduces the risk that they will attempt suicide. Asking the question allows the person in crisis a chance to release and talk through their feelings and thoughts, giving them the opportunity to broaden their view and see that there are reasons for living. People who talk about suicide should not be taken seriously. This is also a myth. Everyone who talks about suicide should be taken seriously and should be connected to the necessary supports so they can find help. If you suspect someone is telling you that they’re thinking of suicide so that you’ll give them attention – they are.You need to give them your attention and connect them to help, or connect them to someone else who can do that. Warning signs and acute warning signs People who think about suicide typically exhibit warning signs. Any significant change in behaviour can be a warning sign for suicide.We can be more alert to this when we are sensitive to people around us, appreciating that anyone can have thoughts of suicide.Active listening can help us tune in to comments that may indicate someone’s struggling. (continued) Some warning signs include: • Statements that indicate hopelessness or being a burden • Threatening suicide or talking about wanting to die* • Looking for ways to die* • Suicide attempt • Increased substance use • No sense of purpose in life or evident reason for living •Withdrawal from friends and family • Rage, anger, irritability • Recklessness • Dramatic mood changes. * These warning signs indicate immediate suicide risk. Stay with the person who is exhibiting these signs and connect them to help. In Canada, call the crisis line at 1-833-456-4566. (American Association of Suicidology, n.d.)