This week is World Suicide Prevention Week. If you notice that things are not going well with someone around you, this is what you can do and what you can pay attention to.
If you are concerned about someone, it is important to ask about it yourself, says Maryke Geerdink. She is a clinical psychologist, psychotherapist and assistance manager at 113 Suicide Prevention.
Not everyone finds it easy to indicate that things are not going well. “That can vary enormously from person to person,” says Geerdink. “One person is better able to say that he or she is bothered or worried than the other.”
Precisely because it is such a difficult and charged subject, Geerdink thinks it is good to ask about it. This way you indicate that you are open to a conversation. It is important that you show genuine interest, make time for it and call the animal by its name.
“If things seem to be going badly for someone, ask, for example, whether he or she has ever had the thought that it would be better if he or she were no longer there. Whether he or she has ever seriously considered taking their own life.”
Much of it is despair
Derek de Beurs, assistant professor in clinical psychology at the University of Amsterdam and researcher into suicide prevention, mentions certain risk factors that you can pay attention to. “An important signal is that someone suddenly starts acting very differently,” he says.
“Imagine: someone suddenly becomes very depressed or cheerful, or withdraws. Especially in combination with a stressful experience such as loss, divorce or dismissal, this can be a reason to worry.”
Suicidality is largely about despair, says De Beurs. “So try to ask about it in a non-judgmental way. Give people the idea and the space to bring it up.”
Don’t come up with a solution right away
Don’t try to come up with a solution right away, he says. This would only reinforce people’s feeling that they are too much or too negative. Also avoid mentioning bright spots too quickly, Geerdink advises.
“You may be quick to point out that someone has a very nice life, with a very sweet partner or children. But with that you can quickly give someone the feeling that those thoughts should not be there. This can make someone feel misunderstood. “
De Beurs thinks it is difficult to talk about suicide because it confronts us with our own mortality. He therefore believes that it is good to increase awareness in order to reach that vulnerable group. This may also make it easier to broach the subject.
Don’t forget yourself
If you talk to someone about these dark thoughts, it is also important to keep an eye on yourself, says Geerdink. “Show understanding, but don’t make promises, for example not to tell anyone. This will prevent you from being left with an enormous sense of responsibility.”
De Beurs agrees: “Know that you are never responsible on your own.” He recommends getting help if it becomes too much for you alone and looking for someone you can trust. This could be a friend (preferably an adult) or, for example, the doctor.
Are you thinking about suicide? You are not alone. Contact 113 Suicide Prevention via www.113.nl or call 113 (local rate) or 0800-0113 (free).