Approaching a person “on the edge”

If you come across a person who is on the brink of a suicidal act, it is important to manage this situation carefully. Agree with colleagues who will talk to the person and from where. Keep observers  away from the suicidal person as they can exacerbate the situation. Check if anyone in the crowd knows the suicidal person, their name or what has happened to them. Do not startle the person and ask for consent before approaching them: stay as close as possible but as far as necessary. Introduce yourself and try to establish a confidence with the person using an empathic approach that doesn’t make the suicidal person feel powerless or overwhelmed. Find out how you can help; ask if they would like to speak with someone- their therapist, GP or relative.

Try to maintain continuous conversation and relate to the person’s experience (e.g. involving hallucinations, recriminations, etc.). Don’t engage in tricks or “reverse psychology”, and work towards allowing the person can emerge from the situation without losing face. Always be mindful of your own physical safety. Unfortunately, sometimes a suicidal person is lost despite all possible efforts. This can be very distressing and it is important that you seek help if you are having trouble coping with a trauma that you have encountered during work situations.