SLAP DIRT Suicide Assessment

by Paul Tautges | April 10, 2013 3:15 am

What do you do when you fear a friend or family member may be suicidal? How do you assess the seriousness of your suspicion or their ‘suicidal comments’? The following assessment tool is from the mini-book HELP! My Friend Is Suicidal[1] by pastor and police chaplain Bruce Ray.

Listen to Your Suicidal Friend! 

Be willing to talk about suicide plainly. Many suicidal people want to voice their thoughts but their family and friends won’t let them! You don’t have to have all the answers; you just need to be willing to listen. Take your friend seriously. Don’t discount her concerns. Don’t say, “It’s not that bad…” To her it is! Don’t tell her what to do, but show her biblically what God wants her to do. Help her to take every out-of-control thought and bring it into submission to Jesus Christ. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

When in Doubt, Ask!

If your friend’s intentions are not clear, ask him point blank: Are you thinking about suicide? It seems counter-intuitive, the opposite of what you think you should do, but asking will not push him to act. Talking about his thoughts and feelings may actually serve as a release-valve, thus buying more time. Learn as much as you can about his suicide plan. A suicide threat assessment tool that I find helpful is easily remembered by the acronym SLAP DIRT:

If there has been a previous attempt(s), add DIRT to the mix:

When depression is present, suicidal persons can send out conflicting signals. One of the most dangerous periods is on the way down, when they are unhappy with life and close to the bottom but still have enough energy to carry out a plan.arrow[2]

At the bottom of the curve, life is flat and depressed persons have little energy to do anything. This is when they don’t go to school or work, don’t seem to get anything done, and spend a lot of time unable or unwilling to get out of bed or off the couch. When they start to come out of the depression, that’s the next most dangerous period because they are beginning to regain energy and can again carry out a plan. Often friends are misled into thinking that the suicidal person is getting better: “He seemed so much happier the last few days….” That apparent happiness may be because the person has a plan and now has the energy to carry it out.

Don’t Try to Be a Hero!

Suicide intervention is risky. It places you in harm’s way, between a suicidal subject and the means of carrying out his plan. Your priority must always be your own personal safety first. Don’t try to be a hero, and don’t become a victim. Call for appropriate help from police, fire, or the local suicide crisis line.

Get a copy of HELP! My Friend Is Suicidal.[3]

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Endnotes:
  1. HELP! My Friend Is Suicidal: https://www.amazon.com/Help-Friend-Suicidal-LifeLine-Mini-books-ebook/dp/B00VXGUGO0/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486983005&sr=1-1&keywords=help+friend+suicide+lifeline
  2. [Image]: http://counselingoneanother.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/arrow.png
  3. HELP! My Friend Is Suicidal.: https://www.biblicalcounselingbooks.com/products/help-my-friend-is-suicidal
  4. [Image] Follow: http://www.specificfeeds.com/follow
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