Many of us have confided in others during dark times, and vice versa. But it can feel awkward, if not downright frightening, not knowing what to do when a loved one or a peer shows suicide warning signs. Developed by Forefront, the five simple and effective Forefront Suicide Prevention LEARN™ steps empower individuals to help others move in the direction of hope, recovery, and survival.
This intervention framework is a way to integrate information on the safe storage of lethal means – and remove the dangers when someone is at-risk for suicide. The new model was first rolled out for the Forefront in the Schools program, which was first implemented in 14 Puget Sound high schools in 2015.
Forefront Suicide Prevention LEARN™: A five-step model for suicide prevention
L: Look for the warning signs or ways the person is inviting help.
Examples of feelings of pain, desperation, hopelessness, helplessness, or being trapped, or threats to kill oneself:
“It will never get better.”
“I won’t be needing these anymore.”
“There is nothing I can do.”
“You’ll miss me if I’m dead.”
“There is no way out.”
E: Empathize and Listen
“How are things going? You seem upset – do you want to talk about it?”
“It sounds like you have so many problems and they feel impossible to deal with.”
“I care about you. You are going through a lot. Let’s talk.”
“You are in a lot of pain. I see it and I hear that you feel alone in it. I care. Please tell me more.”
A: Ask the person clearly, directly, and compassionately about suicide
“Are you thinking about suicide?”
“Are you thinking about ending your life?”
“When you say _____ do you mean you’re thinking about killing yourself?”
This may seem like an awkward, if not impossible thing to do. But know this: asking the suicide question does not increase risk. You won’t cause someone to act on it by asking. Asking sincerely, compassionately, and in context to what you have seen shows that you care. Sharing suicidal thoughts reduces feelings of isolation, and talking generally provides comfort and some relief.
R: Remove the danger
In the Ask step, you inquired about a suicide plan to see if they have means/access to firearms, ropes or excess medication. Now it’s time to work with friends, family or law enforcement to secure or remove these items.
N: Next level of care
Let them know you are concerned and that you want to help. Ask if you can help connect them to someone who has more expertise.
“Can I give you the name of a counselor who might be able to help?”
“I’m willing to go with you to our local help center (or school counselor).”
“Let’s create a safety plan together about who you can call and what you can do if you feel at risk again.”
Free, 24/7 anonymous help is available by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-TALK (8255). If the person in a crisis lives in King County, this number routes you to the Crisis Clinic.
If someone is in immediate risk for suicide, call 911 or take them to the nearest hospital if it is safe for you to do so.
To take a hands-on LEARN™ training, please contact Forefront at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 543-1016.