A Safe Place to Land
As a crisis volunteer for SHOUT and Bath Mind, I worked with a lot of people who were thinking about or imminently planning suicide and as a counsellor I work with people who have been to the darkest corners of their experiences and come back to tell the tale.
The story behind every person who struggles with these thoughts is different. Some sadly show no signs of their distress before taking their own lives. Others find a way to reach out. As different as these people are, as vastly removed from each other in life experiences as they may be, they all have one thing in common. At the point at which they reach out, they all need someone to be the light in their darkness until the sun comes up.
Some need talking down from the ledge, some just need talking. Some may find solace in simply being heard for the first time. Some may need more support than you can offer. Sometimes you won't know at the time. What I do know is that having someone present and willing to hear them in their rawness, regardless of what you do or say could be the difference between life and death. At that moment you may be, as the boat beneath them is sinking, a safe place to land. You may be fearful and unsure of your ability to hold a space for those who cannot contain the darkness alone any more. The quoted words in Sara's song speak to the strength and courage that you have to push through your fears, to stand strong and to hold another human being in their pain, if only for a moment. If you find yourself in a situation where someone has confided in you about their thoughts or their plans, speak openly about it with them. It's ok to gently ask questions as that sometimes makes it easier for the person to open up. There is a ladder system that you can use to help evaluate at what point you may need to intervene. If the answer to a question is yes, then move to the next stage of the ladder.
1. Are they having thoughts about ending their own life? 2. Do they know how they would end their life? (i.e by what means) 3. Do they have the means to carry out their plan?
4. Do they have a timescale? (i.e when do they plan to do it) You can call for help at any point along the ladder, but if you get to number 3, then it definitely worth encouraging the person to seek support from a crisis call centre (numbers below). If they are unwilling to do so and you feel that they are a danger to themselves then call the emergency services. If you get to number 4 and you are unable to stay with the person or feel that they need immediate support, then call emergency services on 999 to make sure they are kept safe. National 24hr services SHOUT: Text shout to 85258 SAMARITANS: Call 116 123 Bath and Somerset services MINDLINE SOMERSET: 01823 276 892 (24hrs) BREATHING SPACE: 01225 983 130 (5.30pm - 11.30pm) Hopefully, you won't get to the upper stages with whoever you are supporting and by being a calm and empathic presence, the urge to carry out any plans will dissipate. You can talk to them about how they can keep themselves safe and in the meantime collaborate with them on finding ongoing support beyond this current crisis.
Remember: Support lines are not just for those who are struggling with suicidal ideation and self-harm. They are also for the people who are a light for others. Holding the darkness for someone else is a noble act but it's not easy to do and it is emotionally challenging. Seeking support for the support that you provide others is essential for your wellbeing too!