August 15, 2012
What to do
As an example of mental health first aid, the following steps are recommended when a person appears to be suffering from depression and could be at risk of hurting or killing himself:
• Approach the person in a space comfortable to both of you and express your concerns.
• If you see the person threatening to hurt himself, talking of death or hopelessness, being agitated or engaging in risky behavior, among other warning signs, tell him what you're observing.
• Directly ask about suicide. Ask, "Are you having thoughts of suicide? Are you thinking about killing yourself?"
• It's not true that talking about it plants the idea or means the person isn't serious.
• If the risk is imminent, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.
• If you believe the person is not in a crisis, ask how he is feeling and how long he's felt this way. Listen nonjudgmentally; do not offer advice and do not interrupt.
• Offer reassurance that with time and treatment, he will feel better. Do not trivialize feelings or try to fix the depression.
• Offer options on how to manage feelings, being encouraging about seeking professional help. If appropriate, offer to assist in finding a health provider.
Source: "Mental Health First Aid USA"
Copyright © 2015 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC