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“Don’t be surprised if someone says
they’re not suicidal but does want to
talk about what’s stressing them out,”
said Thompson. This is also important
because supporting them and allevi-ating
stress can help prevent suicide
thoughts before they start.
The third possibility is that they say
“yes,” they are thinking about suicide.
“If they do say yes, it’s important to
take them seriously,” said Thompson.
“Don’t assume that they’ll get better or
work through it alone. At that point, it’s
up to you to help them.”
The good news is you’ve already
been brave enough to start this conver-sation
and come this far, so you can get
through the rest as well.
“Emphasize that you care about
them and you want them to stay safe
and alive,” said Thompson. “Tell them
that you want to connect them to a
resource for more help, and that you
can do that together.”
Examples of resources can include
your HR department, Employee
Assistance Program (EAP), a crisis line,
a mental health clinic, a hospital or a
faith leader. LivingWorks ASIST is a
program designed to provide someone
with these skills. Remember that not
all resources are available in all places,
and not all of them will work well for
“Knowing your local resources is
half the battle,” said Thompson. “That’s
some homework you can do before-hand,
and it will help you greatly in
that moment. For example, if you have
high confidence in your HR depart-ment’s
ability to help, and you’ve talked
to them, you can not only use them in
that moment, you can also recommend
that as an avenue for other employees
Once you’ve identified a resource, do
everything you can to see the connec-tion
“If possible, wait with them while
you dial the number, or walk or drive
with them to help,” said Thompson.
“You don’t want to intrude on their pri-vacy,
but you also want to make sure
that they get connected to that help.”
Thompson also has some guidance
on what not to do.
“Avoid phrases like ‘It’ll get better’
or ‘Everyone goes through tough times’
– when someone is thinking about
suicide, those statements feel empty,”
he said. “Similarly, don’t try to solve
their problems or carry out a full-scale
intervention yourself. There are train-ing
programs out there that can help
you do that even if you’re not a mental
health professional, but unless you’ve
gone through that training, you’re bet-ter
off connecting them to trained help.”
Ultimately, Thompson says, it’s up to
each of us to watch out for one another,
just like you would for a co-worker at
a worksite filled with hazards such as
slips, trips and falls.
“As someone’s co-worker or supervi-sor,
we spend a lot of time with them
– maybe even more than their fam-ily.
That means we’re one of their best
defenses if they’re struggling. We have
a relationship with them, and we can
use that connection to engage them and
help them stay safe. There’s real power
in that.” n
LivingWorks offers a range of easy and
effective online and face-to-face trainings
to help with these conversations. Learn
more at www.livingworks.net.
MENTA L H E A LT H
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