Pushin’ Up Daisies: Suicide, Recognizing and Preventing It, Part 3

Once you have confirmed your suspicions that your friend or family member is indeed contemplating suicide, you need to evaluate their immediate risk level. Persons intending (INTENT) immediate action upon themselves will have mapped out a specific plan of action (PLAN), they will have prepared their mode or means of action (MEANS), they will have planned or set aside a specific time for the deed (TIME).

Exploratory Questions

Asking the following questions will allow you to evaluate their immediate risk factor.

INTENT: Do you intend to take your own life?

PLAN: Do you have a plan to take your own life?

MEANS: Do you have what you need to carry out your plan?’

TIME: When do you plan to commit your suicide?

Determine Risk Level

Upon receiving the answers to these questions, apply the following evaluation:


Answers with some suicidal thoughts.

Does not express a suicidal plan.

Says that he or she will not attempt suicide.


Answers with suicidal thoughts.

Expresses vague plans that are not lethal.

Says he or she will not attempt suicide.


Answers with suicidal thoughts.

Expresses organized plan that is highly lethal.

Says he or she will not attempt suicide.


Answers with suicidal thoughts.

Expresses organized plan that is highly lethal.

Says he or she will attempt suicide.

If a suicide attempt seems imminent, DIAL 911. If your friend or loved one is calm and you are not in danger, you may wish to call a local crisis center or take the person to the nearest emergency room. It is also important to safely remove any objects that may be dangerous or cause harm to the suicidal person. Things like guns, drugs, knives, razors, ropes, belts, etc. can be used as methods to inflict death upon oneself. It is also paramount that if possible, you should remain with the suicidal person so that they do not attempt to kill themselves before help arrives. One should always remember, however, that there are two lives in the room at risk. Do not take on the responsibility of preserving this person’s life at the peril of your own. Call in professional help.
DIAL 911 IMMEDIATELY and let the experts do what they do best.


If your friend or family member is suicidal, the best way to help him or her is to offer an empathetic, listening ear. Let your loved one know that he or she is not alone and that you care. Do not take upon yourself the responsibility for making your loved one well. You can offer support, but you cannot make a suicidal person well. The suicidal person is the only person who can accomplish their recovery. They must make a personal commitment to recovery. They must seek the assistance of a physician.

It takes immense courage and commitment to help someone who is suicidal. Witnessing a loved one in the throes ending his or her life can bring about many difficult emotions. As you are helping a suicidal person, do not forget to take care of yourself. Talking to someone that you trust—a friend, family member, clergyman, or counselor—about your thoughts and feelings is a good practice.


Get professional help.

Do everything in your power to get a suicidal person the help he or she needs.

Call a crisis line for advice and referrals.

Encourage the person to see a mental health professional.

Help locate a treatment facility.

Take them to a doctor’s appointment.

Follow-up on treatment.

If the doctor prescribes medication, make sure your friend or loved one takes it as prescribed.

Be aware of possible side effects.

Notify the physician if the person seems to be getting worse. (It often takes time and persistence to find the proper medication or therapy in depression, mental illness, and substance dependency cases.)

Be proactive.

Be direct. Being vague with someone who is contemplating suicide often does not work

Drop by to check on them.

Call them rather than wait for a call from them.

Invite them to activities and pick them up if they are without transportation.

Encourage positive lifestyle changes

Help them plan a healthy diet.

Help them accomplish a healthy sleep pattern.

Encourage getting out in the sun or into nature for at least 30 minutes each day.

Exercise is also extremely important as it releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being.

Make a safety plan

Help the person develop a set of steps he or she promises to follow during a suicidal crisis.

Identify any triggers that may lead to a suicidal crisis, such as an anniversary of a loss, alcohol, or stress from relationships.

List contact numbers for the person’s doctor or therapist, as well as friends and family members who will help in an emergency.

Remove potential means of suicide

Remove all pills (except for those currently prescribed for their psychotic treatment or other life-threatening ailments), knives, razors, ropes, firearms or other materials they may have used in the

past for suicide attempts.

If the person is likely to take an overdose, keep medications locked away or give out only as the person needs them.

Continue your support over the long haul.

Even after the immediate suicidal crisis has passed, stay in touch with the person, periodically checking in or dropping by. Your support is vital to ensure your friend or loved one remains on the recovery track. Sudden or complete withdrawal of your presence may weaken their strength.


Witnessing the despair of another human being and assisting his or her recovery is a tough human experience. Living through the anguish of your guilt as you stand beside their casket for doing, nothing to assist them is unbearable. If you recognize suicidal factors in someone, the minimal effort asked of you is to press three little numbers on your cell phone and tell someone. Dial 911 and someone else will take over if you cannot. If you will do that, you can save a life, you can squelch despair, and you can walk away.

As a funeral director and certified grief counselor, I applaud all of those brave and dedicated souls who shore up and save the lives of suicidal friends and family members. I also applaud the dedication of those whose work is to diagnose and manage those who are mentally ill to a place where they can live and function once again without being a threat to themselves. But without hesitation, I applaud as well, those anonymous souls who dial 911 without leaving their names and report desperately lost and hurting people who without their watchful eye, would have in that split moment ended their lives. I applaud them because the families of those desperate people are not in arrangement rooms across the nation meeting with funeral directors with tears in their eyes wondering why their family member committed suicide. Rather, they are meeting with doctors at hospitals receiving assistance to save the lives of their loved ones and mending illnesses that will prevent loss of life in the future.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255


The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect those of the Sun. Tracy Lee can be reached at tracy@queencityfuneralhome.com