Tamzin, one of the Student Wellbeing Champions, talks about Suicide Safety and how to become a Suicide-Alert Helper.
Suicide – it’s a difficult topic but we need to drop the stigma and say the word. Suicide can affect anyone. There is no template for who can be suicidal.
I recently attended a four-hour SafeTALK training course on suicide prevention. Just four hours of my time given up, to gain potentially life-saving training.
The SafeTALK training included being made more aware of the tell-tale signs of a person who is thinking about suicide, and raising alertness was one of the key points.
Becoming suicide alert is so important, as cases often get:
- Missed: meaning that it is completely unrecognised that suicide could be a possibility, perhaps by somebody who has never experienced harmful thoughts themselves.
- Dismissed: disregarded as a serious situation, possibly by somebody who believes that ‘only certain kinds of people’ die by suicide,
- and lastly,
- Avoided: where an individual may see the signs of someone in distress but may not acknowledge this or feel unsure and scared of what to do.
Don’t be afraid to ask
Throughout the training we learnt how to openly talk to an individual in distress, directly saying:
“You seem to be in distress. Sometimes when people are distressed they are thinking about suicide; are you thinking about suicide?”
With such a serious topic, there can be no ambiguity, and while it seems almost unnatural to ask a person who is upset this question, it is the only way to gain a clear answer.
We watched training videos with example situations to become aware of some of the signs of suicidal thoughts, and were shown examples of what not to do.
Don’t be afraid to TALK
We also learned the TALK steps:
- Tell: where an individual tells someone they are struggling, and the other person tells them they are going to help. An individual may ‘tell’ you through ‘invitations’ such as: things you can see – whether they appear dishevelled or don’t look themselves; things you hear – the person might be describing themselves as alone, a burden, having no purpose, wanting an escape; things you can sense – through body language and general demeanour; and through what you learn from the person – if an individual tells you that they’ve just had a family bereavement, or experienced abuse, rejection, or if they say they have made suicide attempts in the past.
- Ask: where you openly pose the question “are you thinking about suicide?” Contrary to popular belief this will not plant thoughts of suicide in somebody’s head. Consider a stranger asking you if you are thinking about giving them your favourite possession. The fact that they have asked you the question does not mean you would start to think about doing it!
- Listen: Pay attention to what the person is saying; tell them that what they are saying is important, and tell them explicitly that you are listening.
- Keepsafe: The final stage is all about signposting the individual to professional help by saying something like “we need some extra help here, I want to connect you to someone who can help you keep safe – is this okay?” At this point, you would connect the person with a professional service, whether it be their GP, Samaritans, the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service or Nightline. There are also a range of service numbers under the ‘Who to call if you need urgent help’ section.
After completing the training, I feel more comfortable with being able to approach people in distress and more confident in how to address people who are thinking about suicide.
Become a Suicide-Alert Helper
If you are interested in attending SafeTALK yourself, there are places available at future workshops.
The next is taking place on Wednesday 29 November 2017, 13:15-17:00.
Suicide is everyone’s business.
Who to contact if you need urgent help
If a situation arises where you or someone close to you needs urgent help or support, there are a number of options open to you.
Samaritans – free 24-hour confidential helpline offering emotional support
- Call: 116 123
- Email: jo@Samaritans.org
C.A.L.L Helpline – confidential support and listening service in Wales
- Call: 0800 123 737
- Text: ‘help’ to 81066
Nightline – confidential student-led telephone listening service, open 20:00 – 08:00 during term-time
- Call: 02920 870555
Cardiff University Security Team (open 24 hours)
- Call: 02920 874444
Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team (open 09:00-16:30, Monday-Friday)
- Call: 02920 874966
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact us in Counselling Health & Wellbeing
If you are experiencing any kind of emotional distress, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service. They can offer support to anybody experiencing any sort of difficulty, however big or small.
They offer booked appointments via an online referral questionnaire, in which friendly, approachable staff can offer you non-judgmental support in a safe and confidential space. They also offer a daily Wellbeing Walk-In Service (Monday-Friday, 15:00-15:45, and Wednesday mornings, 09:30-10:15 at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place).
If you are worried that you are experiencing symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options.
Your feedback and help please
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Tamzin, Wellbeing Champion.
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