What to do
Be B.R.A.V.E. Be calm and breathe, Reassure them, Allow them to talk, Validate their feelings, Ensure their safety.
Myth: No one can stop a suicide. Once someone has made up their mind it is going to happen.
Fact: Suicide is preventable. Positive actions make a difference. People in crisis can get the help they need and, after a time, they will possibly never be suicidal again.
If you are worried someone is suicidal, or someone has attempted suicide:
Share a smile, a hug, hang out.
Being there and being approachable is the most important thing you can do. Make sure you take care of yourself too. Supporting someone who has thoughts of dying is not easy. Make sure you have lots of supports in place yourself.
Equip yourself with knowledge
Knowing what to listen for, look out for, feel for, say, and where to seek help can save lives. Check out the Le Va Top 5 Tactics for suicide prevention.
Find ways to have open, meaningful, supportive, non-judgmental conversations in your community. Provide safe spaces for people to reveal what stressors and pressures they have. Recognise, allow and accept experiences from all the generations in your community.
Take care of relationships
Healthy relationships are vital for wellbeing and providing people with a sense of purpose. Relationships help us during tough times, but relationships can also be a source of stress. Unresolved family problems and break-ups with romantic partners are a risk for suicide. Where possible, mend relationships so that they are healthy and a source of comfort, not stress.
Put acceptance before pressure and expectations
High expectations, intergenerational misunderstandings and unrealistic pressure can contribute towards the risk of suicide for Pasifika peoples. Being there, being loving and being accepting are the most important things you can do. This may mean a “come as you are” acceptance of where the young ones in your community are culturally and behaviour-wise. It might mean letting go of where and what you think our young people should be, and accepting that New Zealand is a different environment.
Research among Pasifika young people has shown that those who felt accepted by others, and accepted by their own Pasifika community, were 70 per cent less like to have made a suicide attempt.
Demonstrate love and care
If ever there is a time to show love, affection and care, it is when there is a risk of suicide.
There are all sorts of things you can do to actively show someone that you care and that life is worth living, and people do this in their own ways. Create enjoyment in their life where you can. Go with them to do the things they like to do, such as swimming or walks, or visits to the ocean or nature. Write them a letter detailing how much you care, what you love about them and why they are vital to your community. Show love in the ways that feel natural and normal to you.
This is the time to show people how much they mean to you, to remind them of the good memories, and to try and make life seem worth living through the small things that you do.
Culture counts. Research of Pasifika high school students showed that feeling proud of your Pasifika identity and believing that Pasifika values are important was associated with students being half as likely to make a suicide attempt.
Feeling secure in your culture, knowing who you are and feeling proud of your culture are protective factors. Culture gives us a sense of belonging and identity. For young Pasifika people in New Zealand, the stronger their cultural identity, the stronger their mental wellbeing. Embrace and strengthen cultural identity.
Make environments safe
When someone is at risk of suicide they may act impulsively. Therefore making an environment safe so that there are few opportunities for suicide is recommended.
That means taking away pills and medicines, sharp objects, guns, poisons, ropes, cords and other means of suicide. They are at higher risk when intoxicated. In a crisis situation, it is important to not leave the person alone and to try and keep them in one place until more help has come. If it is an emergency dial 111, and find out more about what to do in an emergency.
How else do we make environments safe?
Actively work to reduce stigma about mental health and suicide in your community. Don’t encourage a culture of unrealistic expectations, judgement, pride and silence or gossip. Promote acceptance. The risk of suicide among LGBTQI / rainbow youth is very high. This is because of other people’s reactions, judgement and lack of acceptance. A loving, accepting community where people feel that they belong is protective for Pasifika peoples.
Follow their online movements
If possible, check what they are writing on social networking sites (such as Facebook or blogs). Check what they are doing on the computer. Many websites give unhelpful information about suicide and how to do it. You can also direct them to positive websites that can provide advice and guidance.
Learn and teach problem solving skills
Teaching people the skills to solve their problems and resolve conflict in non-harmful ways is a protective factor. Any effort to teach or learn skills to solve problems is suicide prevention. When people are feeling desperate, hopeless, and helpless, suicide is seen to be the only way they can solve their problems. In this respect, problem-solving skills can save lives.
Encourage people to express themselves through art, music, writing, dance, song-writing, rap – whatever works for them.
If they have thoughts of suicide, they have probably stopped doing the things they love. Gently encourage them to participate in activities where they can express themselves or to go to events where they might feel a part of something. When people are very down it is often very hard for them to do things they once loved to do (such as swimming, running, watching movies with them). It is also important to accept them where they are and respect how they are feeling.
Seek help from your networks
Seek help from trusted people, other family members, peers, professionals – there will be trusted, respectful and safe people in your support networks, as well as natural helpers.
It takes a village to raise a child. Make sure you take care of yourself too. Supporting someone who has thoughts of dying is not easy. Make sure you have lots of supports in place yourself. Identify who these support people are, work collaboratively with them and seek professional help.