If you are close to someone who has experienced a recent suicidal crisis and who may not be fully recovered. How do you think about their risk and what kind of support can you provide? It is likely that you or someone else played a key role in encouraging their pursuit of urgent mental health care and/or a formal suicide risk assessment. Regardless of what the risk was assessed to be at the time, it is important to know suicide risk is dynamic and subject to change based on a variety of factors.
Factors Influencing Continuing Suicide Risk Following an Acute Crisis
- Untreated depression or anxiety
- Ongoing stressor that is unresolved and/or subject to intensify
- Persistent problems with sleep or ability to function
- Unrelenting hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Misuse of alcohol and/or substances
- Intermittent or persistent thoughts of death or suicide
- Access to lethal means to harm oneself
Supporting Those with Elevated Risk of Suicide
You may have had an initial conversation with your family member, friend, or coworker about their crisis and your connection may have supplied an important dose of hope and encouragement. It is vital that you convey your continuing availability and support, that they are not traversing this difficult time alone. Your listening and empathic understanding during this time is indispensable. Your time spent with them will afford you the opportunity to encourage initiating or sustaining their participation in treatment (medication and psychotherapy have strong evidence bases for reducing suicide risk), watching for signs of acute increased risk for suicide (establishes a basis for urgent evaluation/care), reminding them of reasons to live, and assisting with lethal means safety.
Lethal Means Safety
Restricting access to the available means to harm oneself has been shown to reduce suicides. Studies have shown that people have a preference for a given means and that many do not seek out other methods if a preferred means is not available. The time between thinking of suicide and acting on it can span minutes, but also subside as quickly. Restricting access to lethal means…