Suicide Prevention Month: #BeThe1To Be There

Over the course of the month of September, the SITREP will be posting information weekly on five action steps for communicating with someone who may be suicidal. This week, the second step is BE THERE. Find more information on the first step HERE.

You can also find resources and information at the SITREP at the Suicide Prevention page.

How Does Being There Someone Who May Be Suicidal Help?

This could mean being physically present for someone, speaking with them on the phone when you can, or any other way that shows support for the person at risk. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person – do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. If you are unable to be physically present with someone with thoughts of suicide, talk with them to develop some ideas for others who might be able to help as well (again, only others who are willing, able, and appropriate to be there). Listening is again very important during this step – find out what and who they believe will be the most effective sources of help.

Why Does This Work?

Being there for someone with thoughts of suicide is life-saving. Increasing someone’s connectedness1 to others and limiting their isolation (both in the short and long-term) has shown to be a protective factor against suicide. Thomas Joiner’s Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide2 highlights connectedness as one of its main components – specifically, a low sense of belonging. When someone experiences this state, paired with perceived burdonsomeness (arguably tied to “connectedness” through isolating behaviors and lack of a sense of purpose) and acquired capability (a lowered fear of death and habituated experiences of violence), their risk can become severely elevated.

In the Three-Step Theory3 (or more commonly known as the Ideation-to-Action Framework), David Klonsky and Alexis May also theorize that “connectedness” is a key protective factor, not only against suicide as a whole, but in terms of the escalation of thoughts of suicide to action. Their research has also shown connectedness acts as a buffer against hopelessness and psychological pain.

By “being there,” we have a chance to alleviate or eliminate some of these significant factors.

Resources

LAST WEEK: #BeThe1To ASK

NEXT WEEK: #BeThe1To KEEP THEM SAFE

References

1 Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. (n.d.) Strategic Direction for the Prevention of Suicidal Behavior: Promoting Individual, Family, and Community Connectedness to Prevent Suicidal Behavior. https://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/Suicide_Strategic_Direction_Full_Version-a.pdf

2 Joiner, T. (2009). The interpersonal-psychological theory of suicidal behavior: Current empirical status. Psychological Science Agenda. https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2009/06/sci-brief

3 Klonsky, E.D. & May, A.M. (2015). The Three-Step Theory (3ST): A New Theory of Suicide Rooted in the “Ideation-to-Action” Framework. International Journal of Cognitive Theory, 6(2), 114-129. https://doi.org/10.1521/ijct.2015.8.2.114

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