In times of crisis, compassionate collaboration can make all the difference. When someone is experiencing suicidal thoughts and has formulated a plan, their world may seem hopeless and isolating. As friends, family members, or concerned others, you have the potential to be a beacon of hope, helping them to rediscover their reasons for staying alive.
The journey towards preventing suicide requires empathetic understanding, active listening, and a collaborative approach. In this blog, we share how you can effectively work together with someone at risk, enabling you to help dismantle their suicide plan while promoting a sense of connection, support, and hope.
What is a suicide plan?
A suicide plan, or plan for suicide, is the thought-out and specific outline for how someone intends to end their life. It often includes the method, location, timing, and other details that the person has resolved upon to carry out their suicide.
Formed after careful consideration, a suicide plan represents the profound hopelessness that a person might be experiencing. While each plan is unique to the individual’s circumstances and mindset, its common thread is the desire to escape the thoughts and feeling they are experiencing in the now. Understanding the gravity of a suicide plan is vital for offering appropriate support and intervention.
How to disable a plan
In essence, a suicide plan has been disabled if someone cannot enact their intended plan. Some might believe the answer to disabling a suicide plan is preventing access to items or locations where a person in crisis could cause harm to themselves. You might want to lock up certain items and stop the ability to replace them, or take the person to a safe place — this may include hospitalisation.
With that being said, it’s important to note if a suicide plan is disabled in this way, you are trying to prevent a suicide attempt and are likely working against the will of the person you are trying to help. This is not the best way to disable a plan, although we know that it may sometimes be the only option.
Why work collaboratively?
We feel that working collaboratively with someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts to disable their suicide plan is a much better option and undeniably more effective due to its empathetic and empowering approach. When people who are feeling suicidal feel heard, understood, and actively involved in the decision-making process, it promotes a profound sense of connection, validation and shared responsibility. This collaborative method respects their autonomy and acknowledges their personal struggles, which in turn cultivates a stronger desire to stay safe.
By engaging in open communication and jointly exploring alternatives, such as identifying reasons for living and finding supportive solutions, your friend or loved one gains a renewed perspective on their situation. This process not only helps to dismantle the immediate plan but also instils a lasting sense of hope, reminding them that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings. The power of collaboration lies in its ability to build trust, reduce isolation, and ultimately provide a foundation upon which the person can rebuild their resilience and regain a sense of purpose.
While we know that sometimes collaboration might seem impossible, by taking the alternative route and working against the person’s wishes, this can in turn have an opposite effect leading your loved one to feel they have no control over their situation.
How to work collaboratively
Working collaboratively to disable a loved one or friend’s suicide plan involves approaching the situation with empathy, a genuine desire to help, and most importantly, communication. Start by creating a safe and non-judgemental space for them to express their feelings and thoughts openly. Listen actively and validate their emotions, showing that you care and are there to support them. Communication is a critical factor in working collaboratively with someone, and we recommend maintaining a compassionate yet direct approach.
Although you may know how to disable a plan, it is more important to learn what the person who created it feels is important. Instead of imposing your solutions, ask them about their reasons for wanting to end their life and what aspects of their plan are most pressing to them. By acknowledging their perspective, you can explore alternatives together that prioritise their wellbeing. Encourage them to share any aspects of their plan that they might be willing to reconsider or postpone. It is all about working with your loved one, not against them. For example, you might suggest removing all harmful items from their home and they may not feel able to do that; however, they might feel more comfortable moving the items somewhere safe and out of harm’s way which still keeps them safe in a way that allows them to have control.
The important thing is that they are speaking with you, sharing what is going on and keeping that communication open, even after the initial conversation. Through communication which you have promoted through creating a safe space for your loved one, you can learn if their circumstances change or if they become at risk again. It also means your loved one knows they can trust someone with their thoughts and likely feel less isolated. Remember, your role is not to “fix” everything but to stand beside them as they navigate their challenges. Through compassionate communication, shared decision-making, and genuine support, you can work collaboratively to help them disable their suicide plan and guide them towards a path of healing and hope.
Sometimes collaboration may seem impossible. Those in crisis might not feel able or willing to discuss their plan with people close to them, but this doesn’t mean you can’t help or guide them towards someone that can. Please remember that HOPELINE247 is another option for the person in crisis. We are here 24 hours a day to help people to stay safe from suicide, and we do this by working collaboratively to disable suicide plans. We can also offer the creation of a HOPELINK, our Safety Planning tool.