What does your heart sense?
Longo moe loto. Silent with the heart.
When it comes to worrying about someone feeling suicidal, sometimes you might feel that something is “just not right”.
It can be hard to put a finger on it, but sometimes we just have a sense inside us. It is not always what you see or hear – it is also what you feel and what people around you are feeling. Sometimes, our senses help us to be on high alert and warn us to pay more attention to what matters and what is happening around us.
One of the difficulties with identifying the warning signs for suicide is that sometimes people can use “masking” to hide what they are really feeling. Masking means that instead of showing the emotions they are going through, people hide behind silence and smiles.
Sometimes, among Pasifika peoples, in order to maintain relationships and harmony, there is a fear of expressing feelings openly and a preference for “masking” or indirect communication.
Sometimes, instead of being encouraged to feel safe about openly sharing thoughts and feelings, there is a culture of silence, put-downs, teasing and, occasionally, punishment for acknowledging what are seen to be inappropriate feelings and behaviours.
New Zealand is a fast-paced environment with many families working long hours with many demands, and young people having a high degree of freedom. A culture of careful monitoring and very few open conversations that come from a slow- paced, tightly knit environment might not serve our Pasifika communities in the ways it used to. Intergenerational misunderstandings and stress has been identified as a risk factor for suicide among Pasifika youth.
Most parents of children who take their own lives did not know that their child was suicidal. Research shows that young people are much more likely to tell their friends.
If someone you are worried about seems likely to mask their feelings, you need to be well informed and pay close attention to all the signs and risk factors. Try and open up communication and ask lots of questions.
Be there – Make it clear that you are always there for them, anytime, day or night.
Be genuine – “Keep it real” so that they feel they can talk about their deep feelings and the truth with you, no matter how hard it is to hear.
Be approachable – Be open, interested and non-judgemental so that they feel they can come to you with anything.
Be trustworthy – Don’t make promises you can’t keep or lie to them.
Be loving – Show how much you care in your actions and words with thoughtfulness and sensitivity. You can show love in all sorts of ways; with touch, food, your time and attention, special events (like going to the movies, out for dinner, coffees, trips into nature, parks, walks, manicures, watching rugby matches, etc), and by doing practical things that show you care (cups of tea, cooking, cleaning, driving people places and picking them up, helping with gardening, etc), and with small gifts and treats.
Take action – Equip yourself with information; know the warning signs to look out for and learn how to talk about suicide safely.
Seek help – Find out where to go to get professional help and services.