Keeping safe


Published by Zoe Powley on 9 Jan 2021

Are you struggling to keep yourself safe right now?

Your safety is very important, and so getting the right help at the right time is essential. Whilst ‘Thinking Through Therapy’ aims to be available for planned therapy, we are unable to respond as an urgent or emergency service. Here are some suggestions of things you can try and services you can go to, for help with staying safe.

If you are feeling suicidal …….

You don’t need to deal with these distressing thoughts and feelings alone. It is important to let someone know if you are feeling as though you want to end your life, so that they can support you and help you to access the right help quickly.

Speak to someone supportive and trustworthy

This could be someone in your family or a friend. They may be able to help you stay safe simply by being there. They can also support you by listening and guiding you to find on-going sources of help.

Help-lines

We realise that it can sometimes be hard to open up to loved ones about such intense and distressing thoughts and feelings. If it feels too difficult to speak with someone you know, you might want to consider talking to a professional.

  • The Samaritans provide a 24-hour support service, which you can access by phone on 116 123 or via their website at www.Samaritans.org.
  • Child-line is also a free and confidential 24-hour service, available if you are under 19 years old, via telephone on 0800 1111 or their website at www.childline.org.uk

Who else could support you?

You can request to speak with your out-of-hours GP. They will be able to help you access the most appropriate local crisis support services. If you feel able to keep yourself safe in the short-term, you could also make an urgent appointment to see your own GP.

If your life is in immediate danger or you have already seriously harmed yourself, it is important that you call 111 or 999, or attend your nearest Accident and Emergency Department as a matter of urgency.

Additional things you can try…

Focus on just trying to get through the day, rather than thinking too far into the future.

When we feel distressed and unable to cope, our outlook on the future can seem very negative and make us feel like there is ‘no other way out’. Thinking about the future can cause us to feel more overwhelmed, whereas focusing on getting through the present day may feel more manageable.

Although it may not feel like it right now, distressing thoughts and feelings will pass and you may feel more able to cope with life in the coming days or weeks.

You can choose to delay the decision to act on any thoughts of ending your life and focusing on one day at a time.

Distract yourself

Focusing on distressing thoughts can actually make them feel more intense and harder to cope with.

Trying to do something that can distract you away from these thoughts (even temporarily), can be a helpful way of reducing their intensity and increasing your ability to cope.

Distracting activities could include:

  • doing something that you would normally enjoy
  • having a conversation with someone (about any topic)
  • engaging in exercise
  • setting yourself a small task to do, such as baking, tidying or gardening

Stay away from alcohol and drugs

It is common for people to use alcohol and drugs when they are feeling distressed, in an attempt to numb the emotional pain and ‘feel better’. Unfortunately, using drugs and alcohol can have the opposite effect.

They often act as a depressant, even if they have the opposite effect in the short-term. The depressant effect can lead to increased distress and increased negative thoughts, which can make suicidal thoughts stronger.

Alcohol and drug use can also reduce our sense of control, ability to judge things clearly and can increase risk-taking behaviour. Using alcohol and drugs can therefore increase the risk of someone taking their own life.

Remove yourself from potential harm

Stay away from items or places that could cause you to harm yourself, such as medication, weapons and heights. Ask someone to take charge of these items and make them less accessible to you.

With prescribed medication, you could ask someone to administer and supervise you taking this or ask the surgery to only prescribe a short-term supply.

Find somewhere safe

This could be anywhere inside or outside that you feel safe, away from items or places that might cause you harm to yourself.

Safe places could include:

  • your own home
  • a public place where there are lots of people around you
  • with a family member
  • a place of worship
  • a public building, such as a community centre

We can all have different ideas of where we feel most safe, so you need to pick the best one for you.

Be around people

Just being in the company of other people can help us to stay safe. Although it is good to talk to people about how you are feeling, being with others doesn’t mean that you have to open up to them about this if you don’t feel able to.

Being around people could involve talking to them about other subjects or just being in their company and staying quiet.

If you are worried about someone else ……

If you are worried about someone, who you believe may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, it can seem difficult to know how to respond.

You may worry about making things worse, feel powerless to change things or feel responsible for making sure that a loved one stays safe. These are very common reactions but there are a number of ways you can support someone.

Talk about it

Allowing someone the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling can be helpful in itself. Asking respectful questions and listening to how someone is feeling, without judging them, can help them feel like they are not alone and shows them that you care.

Knowing what to say can feel difficult and we may worry that asking someone about their suicidal thoughts might make a situation worse. However, there is no evidence to suggest that talking about suicide makes it any more likely to happen.

In fact, through listening and understanding what is going on for someone, you are in a better position to help them access the right support. You can consider different options together at a time when they may not be able to focus on this alone.

Suicidal feelings should always be taken seriously. Just because someone talks about suicide doesn’t mean that they won’t attempt to take their own life – talking about suicide can be a plea for help.

Be there

As well as showing someone that you care, staying with someone who is feeling suicidal can help them feel safe and offer supervision at times where there are concerns that they may act on their thoughts and feelings if left alone.

Thinking about the future can cause someone to feel more overwhelmed, whereas focusing on getting through the present day may feel more manageable. Helping someone to focus on the ‘here and now’ rather than the future, can be helpful in reducing their distress.

Remove potentially harmful items

If someone tells you that they are feeling suicidal and are having thoughts of acting on this, talk with them about staying away from any items or places that could cause them to harm themselves.

This could include alcohol, medication, weapons or other methods associated with suicide. You could suggest that they ask someone to take charge of potentially harmful items and make them less accessible.

With prescribed medication, you could encourage them to identify someone to administer and supervise them taking this or ask the surgery to only prescribe a short-term supply.

Help them to access support

It can sometimes be hard for someone to open up to loved ones about such intense and distressing thoughts and feelings, especially if they are feeling guilty about the way they are feeling or they believe that no one understands or cares.

If it feels too difficult for them to speak with someone they know, you can encourage them to consider talking to a professional.

  • The Samaritans provide a 24-hour support service, which you can access by phone
    on 116 123 or via their website at www.Samaritans.org.
  • Child-line is also a free and confidential 24-hour service, available if you are under 19
    years old, via telephone on 0800 1111 or their website at www.childline.org.uk

They can also request to speak with the out-of-hours GP, who will be able to help them access the most appropriate local crisis support services.

If you believe that someone’s life is in immediate danger or you are aware that they have already seriously harmed them self, it is important that you call 111 or 999, or support them to attend their nearest Accident and Emergency Department as a matter of urgency.

Make sure you support yourself!

Supporting someone who experiences suicidal thoughts can be very stressful and leave you feeling upset, confused, frustrated and scared. It is important that you access support for yourself so that you can look after your own mental health and continue to be available to the person you are supporting too.

You could consider one or more of the following:

  • Talking to a family member or friend about how you are feeling
  • Joining a carers support group – these can offer emotional and practical support
  • Accessing talking therapy for yourself
  • As well as providing direct support to those who are feeling suicidal, the Samaritans
    can also be available for people who are providing support to loved ones in this area. You can access the Samaritans by telephone on 116 123 or via their website at www.samaritans.org.

In addition to the above, it is important for you to have time for yourself, to do the things that you enjoy and help maintain your own mental health.

If you think you may be at risk of harm from others ….

There are a number of different ways that we may be at risk of harm from others:

  • Physical harm – causing an injury or physical pain
  • Emotional harm – if someone makes us feel worthless, is overly-critical, blaming, constantly puts us down or is overly controlling
  • Sexual harm – if someone harms us or forces us to engage in acts that we do not agree to
  • Threatening and intimidating behaviour – this could include threats to kill, harassment and destroying property.
  • Neglect – if we rely on someone else to care for us (including children and those with disabilities), neglect could include not having our basic daily needs met.

What can you do about this?

Talk to someone

Remember, you are not alone.

If it is safe to do so, you may want to speak to a trusted friend, family member or supportive person, who can help you think about how you can access support with staying safe.

Sometimes, it might not feel safe to talk to people you know, for fear that the person who is causing you harm will find out. In these instances, you may choose to contact one of the following:

  • For women, the free 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which can be
    accessed by calling 0808 2000 247 or on-line, via the website on:
    www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk
  • You can talk to your GP, Health Visitor, Midwife or any other Health or Social
    Professionals involved in your care.
  • Call 999 if you are in immediate danger of violence from anyone.
  • For anyone who is at risk or in danger and under the age of 18, you should contact
    the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) on 0808 800
    5000 or on-line at help@nspcc.org.uk.
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