Whatever your views on suicide, it’s important to talk about it and get it out there into society’s consciousness. So, in that spirit, I give you the other half of my interview with Dr. Leslie Seppinni, an L.A.-based clinical psychologist with experience as a Crisis Intervention Specialist.
What advice do you have for those who are suicidal?
Seek counseling immediately; don’t wait. Talk to your loved ones and friends. The more you reach out, the less likely you are to actually do it. The more you’re willing to open up, the less likely you are to take action. Stay away from alcohol and drugs and other depressants. Have someone stay with you if you feel it’s not safe for you to be alone. Remove dangerous items you may be tempted to use [to harm yourself] like guns, pills, etc.
What advice do you have for those left behind after a loved one takes his/her life?
You will go through the Kübler-Ross five stages of grief and will need grief counseling where you talk through your trauma. Everyone closely affected should go to grief counseling, especially children who will sometimes blame the surviving parent for the death of the spouse, saying things like, “You were too hard on him or you wanted too much.”
You want to reduce the guilt and blaming, which is unhealthy. Kids will often feel they should have been able to prevent it, or may feel guilty over the last mean thing they said to the person who committed suicide. Sometimes, they use the act as a comparison for their lives, like, “If that person couldn’t make it, then how am I going to?”
Pay attention and have interventions early. You especially want kids and family members to know what will happen next, sometimes with things such as finances if the person gone was your main means of support. Sometimes, you will find out that the person who committed suicide had a lot more secrets such as debt that may end up being devastating.
Prepare your family and kids, and work with a therapist to determine what information you learned about the person gone is really necessary to share with everyone. Not everything may need to be said publicly.
Is there anything else you think I should know?
If someone, especially children, actually saw the person commit suicide, or have the trauma of being exposed to it, they may have much higher Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is life-altering to have someone take their life in front of you, so they may need extensive counseling, and participate in age-appropriate support groups. Above all, people who have been personally touched by suicide need to reach out for help from their network of friends and family. It’s not a good time to isolate yourself – stay connected.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, remember: there is help. Call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For more information on suicide and its prevention, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Web site at www.afsp.org.