Reaching a stranger (Stopping suicide)

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Photo of lone man

Do you ever see a person on the street and wonder if that person is suicidal?  I often wonder this, and it is one of the reasons why I talk to strangers, including the homeless.

Today, while walking Penny, I met a person who I will refer to as DM, short for some words that were written on his belongings.  He told me he was suicidal.  This is somewhat how our conversation went:

DM:  Hello. How are you doing?

Me:  Doing okay. How are you?

DM:  Taking a break on the steps.  I’m DM.

Me:  Kiai.

(DM gives me fist bump.)

Me:  So, how are you?

DM:  I’m an alcoholic.  I’ve been feeling suicidal.

He told me about his background, his psychiatric diagnosis, and what drugs he was taking.  But the question I asked that cut to the chase was, “What happened recently that caused you to feel bad?”  I didn’t need to know the answer to help him regulate his emotions, since he was suicidal and his emotions were on the surface.  But I asked the question to build trust, to help him open up, and to show that I was genuine in trying to help.  Sometimes just having a person to tell what is going on can help, but in this case, it’s either help the person regulate the emotions right there in the moment or call a suicide prevention hotline.

Suicidal feelings can consist of a number of different emotions. They might include depression, doom, longing, grief, loneliness, guilt, shame, anger, loss, abandonment, rejection, anxiety, or any other negative feeling.

There are different methods of regulating negative emotions, but the Nicon Method (TIPI) is the quickest and simplest way, though helping others with it properly requires training.

I helped DM using Luc Nicon’s method to regulate his suicidal emotions, having him close his eyes, and then tell me where he felt his emotions.  Normally, I ask a person what sensations are felt, but DM had trouble identifying the physical and could only verbalize the emotions.  Guilt was in his abdomen. Other emotions like anger were in his back and in his breathing.  I told DM to observe these sensations until they changed on their own.  He only needed to observe.  His body relaxed and he opened his eyes feeling better.

Afterward I thought about our meeting, how happenstance it was, and thought about how easy it is to bypass a person in need of help.  It’s easy to ask, “How are you,” but difficult to give a genuine answer. Therefore, ask twice.  The second time shows you really want to know and can become the key to help stop suicide.


photo by Boris Thaser.

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