Use Your 5 Senses to Prevent a Suicide




Another suicide and a community devastated. Was it divorce, bullying, desperation, addiction, or isolation? Is there anything we could have done? “He never told anyone he was going to attempt suicide; he seemed fine!”


Preventing suicide takes more than listening for someone to say they want to die. We must engage all five senses to help prevent suicide in our loved ones.


Your loved one may be 15, 40, or 65. They may be experiencing bullying or self-esteem issues or a horrible divorce or financial crisis or may have had a child or lost a loved one to suicide recently. Engage your five senses as follows and never be afraid to discuss suicide with someone you love. Talking about suicide does not cause suicide. Use your five senses:


Touch: The power of touch is astounding. Chances are you’ve known someone who was struggling and you grabbed them to give them a hug and they just broke down crying. Much of the time, a simple touch on the shoulder with a sincere positive comment is all it takes to get through.


Sight: Give a compliment on the physical presence of a person. Do not put them down, but build them up. You may also use sight to watch for objects used to self-harm, notice your loved one withdrawing and/or completely isolating from friends and family. Visual cues are there if you watch for them. Also, notice if they are getting rid of their prized belongings.


Taste: When your loved one is secluding themselves, encourage them to spend time with you—go out to eat at their favorite place, engage in conversation, and ask about their future plans or make plans with them in a few days; give them something to look forward to.


Smell: When your loved one is not caring for their hygiene they may be depressed and lack the energy to care for their physical appearance or surroundings. Encourage them to clean up and offer help to clean up their environment.


Sound: This is the most obvious sense to engage, but the one you will need the least. Many people that are considering suicide don’t talk about it. If you do hear someone talking about it follow through by discussing it with them and getting them help. You may hear them talking about giving away possessions prior to an attempt. Listen for “I’m leaving” talk or out-of-the-norm affection. Above all, listen.


For more information and warning signs, read this factsheet.


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