Mary is an Active Listener. Samantha is a potentially suicidal student.
Mary: Hi Sam, can I help you? I'd be happy to listen to you, if you want.
Samantha: Ah— (silence)...
Mary: You seem quite upset. Can you tell me about it?
Samantha: I don't know. Nobody wants to listen to me. Why should you?
Mary: I do and I am here to listen.
Samantha: I really need to talk to someone, but I'm afraid.
Mary: So, you're feeling pretty scared.
Samantha: Yeah, scared and embarrassed
Mary: It must be difficult for you to come here to see me.
Samantha: You don't know how difficult this is.
Mary: Now that you're here, why don't you tell me what's bothering you.
Samantha: I ... I tried it last night
Mary: What did you try last night?
Samantha: It's too awful to say. (Silence)
Mary: I'll wait
Samantha: I.., I...ah, ah...I..., I tried to kill myself last night!
Mary: Why don't you tell me about what's got you so upset that you are thinking about killing yourself.
Samantha: I don't want to live anymore. John said he doesn't want to go out with me anymore. I can’t believe he doesn't care about me anymore.
Mary: You must really love him.
Samantha: Yeah, I do. How could he do that to me? How could he? We've been going out since 1st year.
Mary: Did you have any idea that John was going to break up with you?
Samantha: No, we had a great time this past weekend He never said anything. How could he do this to me?
Samantha: I really love him and I can't live without him.
Mary: Did you tell him that, Anne?
Samantha: Yeah, but it didn't make any difference. He said it wasn't another girl, he just wanted to be free.
Mary: What did that make you feel like?
Samantha: Scared and angry!
Mary: You must have felt pretty angry, huh?
Samantha: I was furious, I haven't been that angry since my parent's divorce. Dad just left. He said he loved me, but I never see him anymore. Everyone I love ends up leaving me. I must be an awful person that no one can possibly love.
Mary: First your father left and now John. Are you feeling like it's your fault?
Samantha: Yeah, nobody cares about me, why shouldn't I kill myself?
Mary: You said you tried to kill yourself last night. Tell me about it.
Samantha: I took a bunch of pills. Sleeping pills, I think. I got really scared and made myself throw up.
Mary: Do you really want to die?
Samantha: No, but I can't stand this pain anymore. Why does everyone leave me? I feel so all alone.
Mary: Have you talked to your mother about how you feel?
Samantha: No, I couldn't do that to her. She has her own problems.
Mary: What about your school counsellor, Mrs. Martel ? Or maybe Mr. Federicks?
Samantha: No, I can't just go walking up to Mr. Federicks and tell him I'm thinking of killing myself.
Mary: Everyone really likes Mr. Federicks, he really cares about his students. I think you could talk to him.
Samantha: Maybe after class tomorrow, after everyone is gone. I might be able to.
Mary: You might even be able to talk to him today, after school. He usually stays around for quite a while after the bell.
Samantha: Would you come with me? You don't have to say anything, just be there. Please?
Mary: O.K. I’ll meet you in front of the cafeteria at 2:00 and I'll go with you to see Mr. Federicks. I’m really glad that you came to see me today and shared with me how you're feeling.
Samantha: Thanks for agreeing to come with me. See you at the end of seventh period.
It's hard to know what to do when someone you care about is feeling depressed or upset.
You can use the following list as a guide to good Active Listening:
Consider the possibility of suicide
Focus on the pain
Ask if suicide is on their minds
Allow the expression of feeling
Make life an option
Get help from responsible persons
Stay with the person at risk
Keep details of the story confidential
× Lecture or moralise or give advice
× Think it is a passing phase
× Brush off feelings with inane remarks
× Be afraid that you will instil the idea
× Do nothing
× Trample on feelings
× TALK TOO MUCH
× Dare them to follow through with suicide
× React verbally or physically with shock
× Go it alone
× Leave the person alone
× Promise not to tell anyone
Remember, a good friend will always tell a trusted adult about a friend who is struggling with a serious problem, is deeply depressed or considering suicide.
YOU ARE NOT LISTENING TO ME WHEN...
You do not care about me;
You say you understand before you know me well enough;
You have an answer for my problem before I've finished telling you what my problem is;
You cut me off before I have finished speaking;
You find me boring and don't tell me;
You feel critical of my vocabulary, grammar or accent;
You are dying to tell me something;
You tell me about your experience making mine seem unimportant;
You are communicating with someone else in the room;
You refuse my thanks by saying you haven't really done anything.
YOU ARE LISTENING TO ME WHEN...
You come quietly into my private world and let me be me;
You really try to understand me even if I’m not making much sense
You grasp my point of view even if it goes against your own sincere convictions;
You realize the hour I took from you has left you a bit tired and drained;
You allow me the dignity of making my own decisions even though you think they may be wrong;
You do not take my problem from me, but allow me to deal with it in my own way;
You hold back your desire to give me good advice
You do not offer me religious solace when you sense I am not ready for it;
You give me enough room to discover for myself what is going on;
You accept my gift of gratitude by telling me how good it makes you feel to know you have been helpful
√ listen more than talk
√ direct the conversation to the painful feelings
√ have compassion for sufferer
√ risk being foolish
√ attempt to be available at all times
√ remain willing to share another person's pain
√ respects confidences
× offer opinion or judgments
× belittle or minimize concerns
× discuss one's own problems
× give advice
× express shock or surprise
× patronize or probe
× offer platitudes and clichés
× make promises that cannot be kept
× interpret, lecture or diagnose
× Say "I know just how you feel."
× fail to pay attention or care
If a friend mentions suicide, take it seriously. If they have expressed an immediate plan, or have access to prescription medication or other potentially deadly means, do not leave them alone. Get help immediately.
"Active Listening" is simply the offering of friendship by one ordinary human being to another at a time of crisis or loneliness. An Active Listener has no professional status or authority, but is simply a fellow human being who cares. The purpose of Active Listening is to listen, accept, care and empathize.
Allowing the person with a problem to express and to talk without being judged.
Allowing the person to stay in neutral and accept feelings as they are.
Allowing one human being to reach out to another human being with respect.
Allowing the listener to hear where the speaker is coming from and allows us to be sensitive to another's feelings or ideas even when we don’t agree.
The purpose of Active Listening is not to give advice, instruct, solve problems, or judge. It is to respect the worth and value of another human being through Listening, Accepting, Caring, and Empathising.
Additional warning signs that a teen may be considering suicide:
Teenage suicide is a serious and growing problem. The teenage years can be emotionally turbulent and stressful. Teenagers face pressures to succeed and fit in. They may struggle with self-esteem issues, self-doubt, and feelings of alienation. For some, this leads to suicide. Depression is also a major risk factor for teen suicide.
Other risk factors for teenage suicide include:
VERBAL SIGNS (What your friend might be saying.)
"I want to die."
"I don't want to live anymore." Indirect statements:
"I want to go to sleep and never wake up."
"You’ll be sorry when I'm gone."
"It'll be over soon."
"I want the pain to end."
BEHAVIORAL SIGNS (What your friend might be doing.)
1. Depression, sadness
2. Lack of energy
3. Any changes in sleeping habits (increase or decrease in sleeping)
4. Any change in appetite (increase or decrease in eating)
5. Impatience and irritability
6. Inability to concentrate (becoming bored and listless)
7. Previous suicide attempt
8. Giving away possessions
9. Making final arrangements (will, insurance, funeral)
10. Increased risk taking (driving a car recklessly)
11. Frequent accidents (An accident can mask a suicide attempt.)
12. Lessening of interest in friends and social life
13. becoming restless and hyperactive or dull and listless
14. Drop in grades by good student, or sudden interest in grades by poor student
15. Feelings of hopelessness
16. Isolation from family
17. Fascination with death
18. Loss of interest in hobbies, sports, job
SITUATIONAL SIGNS (What might be happening to your friend)
3. Low self-esteem
4. Lack of hope or communication
5. Trouble with the law
6. Drug and alcohol abuse
1. The break-up of a romantic relationship
For an adolescent the loss of such a relationship is traumatic in many cases. His or her world has come crashing down. Behind many a macho exterior or sour grapes attitude is a sensitive and hurting young person. Trite expressions like "Things will get better in time" or "There are other fish in the sea" show no sensitivity for the hurt the young person is feeling and deny that the pain is real.
2. The death of a loved one
The pain of separation by death can be so great that the young person might be driven to join that person in death. Furthermore, the grief process often does not include the young person in the family. Many adults do not consider the possibility that the grief that a young person is experiencing at the death of a close family member is as profound as their own.
3. The death of a pet
Consider the teenager whose only true listener is the dog. The dog is there to listen and to love and to never pass judgment. And if that dog should die?
4. The loss of a job
For many teenagers, "job" means maturity and independence. Take away the job? What happens to the independence?
5. Losing face
Consider the boy who publicly stated he was aiming to be a team captain and didn't make it. Consider the student who wanted to attend a prestigious college but got a rejection instead, and everyone knows it
The loss of a parent through divorce is more traumatic than is commonly admitted. Many teenagers feel responsible for the break-up of the marriage. The imagined or actual fear of a possible divorce is also tremendously painful for the teenager.
1. School Pressure
The need to achieve high marks, time to accomplish several major assignments simultaneously, involvement in too many extracurricular activities, demands of school sports, college applications.
2. Peer Pressure
The need to find acceptance, group morals, conformity to clothing styles, drugs, alcohol, sex, and bullying to name just few.
3. Parental Pressure
Success, money, the right college, the right friends, good marks, conflict between the need to control and the need to be independent, marital problems between parents, "get a job", clothing, music, the parent who wants to be a "friend", lectures rather than examples.
1. Physical Unattractiveness
Consider the young man who thinks that physically he does not match his peers. Consider the young lady who thinks she's plain and homely. Consider the effect of skin blemishes at debs time.
2. Never the first
Consider the young man or the young lady who always feels like a second choice when it comes to dating or being chosen for anything.
Consider the pain and agony of the teenager who is caught between the two worlds of sexuality and who is terrified to speak to anyone about this for fear of ridicule. Consider the young person whose fear of being homosexual is based on a lack of fundamental sexual knowledge.
Consider the teenager who, influenced by the media blitz and by teenage styles, judges importance or lack thereof by the type of clothes he or she is forced to wear.
5. Physical Disability
Consider the teenager who must not only cope with a physical problem, but also with the unkind remarks and glances of others.
6. Academic Disability
Consider the teenager whose older brother or sister was a "genius" and is constantly reminded of the difference between them.
LACK OF COMMUNICATION AND LACK OF HOPE:
1. Isolation and loneliness
Many teenagers feel so isolated and alone that they are convinced that there is no one to help them and that no one really cares. Whether this is true or not is irrelevant. What matters is that this is how they perceive it, and so they suffer in silent isolation.
2. Without a future and hopelessness
Consider the teenager who instead of looking to the future with expectation is overwhelmed with a sense of hopelessness. All hope in the future has been lost.
FALSE!! If I talk to people about their suicidal feelings, it will put the idea into their heads.
FALSE!! If a person talks about wanting to die that is a sure sign that no suicide attempt will be made.
FALSE!! If you think about suicide or suicide attempts, you will eventually die by suicide.
FALSE!! Only people from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to kill themselves.
FALSE!! People who think about suicide, attempt suicide or kill themselves are always mentally ill.
FALSE!! When a person talks about suicide, it's just for attention and the best thing to do is to ignore the words.
FALSE!! Suicide occurs without warning so there is no way to prevent it.
FALSE!! We can relax once the suicidal person is getting professional help.
FALSE!! The depression has lifted and the person seems to be much better and happier. This is an indication that the person is out of danger.
FALSE!! Suicidal urges are inherited, so there is not much we can do.
FALSE!! Suicide is a problem experienced only by older people.
FALSE!! Only certain types of people are prone to suicide.
FALSE!! People who talk about suicide don't kill themselves.
FALSE!! Suicide among young people is on the decline in terms of numbers of deaths annually.
FALSE!! When teenagers talk about suicide, change the subject and try to get their minds off of it.
FALSE!! Most young people who kill themselves really want to die.