The quality of social interactions in the life of someone who battles mental illness can vastly affect their state of wellbeing.
Dr. David Roberts, director of UT Health San Antonio Transitional Care Clinic, shared some key signs to look out for, tips on how to start a conversation and the importance of creating a well-being response plan when helping someone who battles mental illness.
Someone may be at risk of suicide if:
- They are experiencing depression.
- Have a history of attempting suicide
- Had people in their lives that have attempted or committed suicide
- Use drugs or alcohol at a higher risk than they normally do
- They are prone to impulsive behavior and are experiencing any recent loss or disappointment
A person at risk of suicide could also make statements about not seeing a future for themselves. Such as, "I feel worthless" or "there is no point living anymore."
Listening to the words they use is important.
Start the conversation:
“Say something like, ‘last week I heard you say, my life is useless’. Using that concrete example is helpful and shows them you're paying attention,” said Dr. Roberts.
“One of the most important things we can do is be comfortable bringing up the question of suicide. People thinking about suicide, often feel ashamed, alone, alienated and like they can't talk with other people about it.”
“One thing I would like to be sure people understand is talking about safety and suicide is very important for friends and loved ones. Show them that we care and ask if we can help them to reduce the pain.”
Create a Response Plan:
“Research shows friends and family members can be helpful by creating a suicide safety plan. We’ve actually started thinking about it as a form of mental health first aid. In the same way that you don’t have to be a doctor to do CPR, you don’t have to be a doctor to do first aid for someone feeling suicidal,” explained Dr. Roberts.
He suggests making a crisis response plan. It’s a list that shows personal risk factors and includes questions like:
What are the things that give you a sign you’re getting to a crisis stage, where the pain is going to be intolerable?
What can you do by yourself to lessen the pain you’re in?
What can you do to reach out to people for social support?
What are the things that have been meaningful to you in the past?
“Help the person get in touch with what matters to them in life like, pets, children, family and finally, emergency resources. When all of these things have not helped to lessen the pain, can they call 911 or go to the hospital?”
“Often when someone is suicidal they get blinders on. They’re thinking reflexively, can’t solve problems well, their thinking gets rigid, dark and present focused. What this does is help them in the moment. They can take a picture of this plan with their smartphone and when they’re feeling suicidal, it can help get them through.”
Make an appointment
If you would like to make an appointment, call 210-450-6450
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Counselors are available 24 hours a day in both English and Spanish via the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.