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A conversation can save a life

Reaching out to someone who is suicidal may seem daunting; but doctors say that sometimes, a single conversation can save a life
By Dr. Poornima Bhola

You stop to talk to your neighbor after a long time; the usual things, children, the traffic and so on. Quite unexpectedly, after some initial hesitation, she shares her thoughts about life not being worth living. What do you say or do next? Can you do anything to help?

Taking the time to listen, reach out, to ask and show that you care is the most important thing you can do in a situation like this. Any expression of suicidal thoughts is something to take seriously as a ‘call for help’. You may worry that asking about suicidal thoughts may push someone toward suicide, or introduce a thought that wasn’t there in the first place. Actually talking about it openly could be most helpful. Take a small step by telling your neighbour that you are concerned. Listen to her story calmly with compassion and acceptance. This could make her feel that she is not alone and that help is available. You could say something like, “I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.” Or you could ask, “When did you begin to feeling like this? Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?”

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