Suicide is the intentional act of killing oneself. In many cases, suicide can be prevented. Up to 75% of the people who have attempted suicide do something to let us know their intentions before they act. Their behavior changes in a notable manner, they show warning signs and often say something that tells us they are in trouble and need help. For example, you might hear them make statements like ‘I want to be dead forever’ or ‘I can’t handle this pain anymore.’
One of the ways to help identify suicidal thoughts and ideas is to be an active listener. Listening is a dying art and we at Samaritans Mumbai practice active listening, reaching out to as many people as we can. On a basic level, active listening takes the focus off of the helper and puts it on the person being helped. In this way, active listening is not only a very effective form of communication, it also alleviates some of the isolation, loneliness, low self-esteem and feeling that nobody cares that often accompanies bouts of depression. Active listening helps the person realize that they are important and that everyone deserve time and attention. For the person in crisis, being in communication with someone who is actively listening can be a calming and steadying influence. And most beneficial, it also assists that person in getting their feelings out in a safe and supportive environment, thereby preventing suicide.
Communication is the first step in suicide prevention. Careful listening and open communication can help people identify friends or other individuals who may be at risk for suicide. Being an active listener is like being an anchor for someone who is waiting to talk. Being an active listener is also like being the should for the ones who cry for help. Talking about suicide-its causes, prevalence and risk factors as well as what people in crisis are experiencing-provides us with the best opportunity we have to prevent it and many of the other problems that are tied to violence and self-destructive behavior.The act of showing care and concern to someone who may be vulnerable to suicide can help them. Asking them whether they are okay, listening to what they have to say in a non-judgmental way, and letting them know you care, can all have a significant impact. Do not attempt to argue someone out of suicide. Rather, let the person know you care, that he or she is not alone, that suicidal feelings are temporary and that depression can be treated. Avoid the temptation to say, “You have so much to live for,” or “Your suicide will hurt your family.”
Reaching out to those who may be struggling or may have become disconnected from others and offering support can be a life-saving act. Reaching out involves active listening and engaging with a person in a non-judgmental and supportive way. An important aspect of reaching out also involves linking people to relevant professional services to ensure proper care and follow up. By giving a person the opportunity to talk about their loss, in their own time and on their own terms can also provide a lifeline.
Active listening is the practice of listening to a speaker while providing feedback indicating that the listener both hears and understands what the speaker is saying. It is fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just ‘passively’ hearing the message of the speaker. This includes paying close attention to their words, repeating back key ideas and phrases from time to time, summarizing and questioning. It is a skill that can be acquired and developed with practice.
Active listening is an important skill to earn the trust and respect of your peers. Most people appreciate having supportive and understanding peers at work, they will find great value in having a person around who reaches out and is understanding. It helps you understand issues and formulate better solutions. Active listening can also help you diffuse conflicts. When you’re actively engaged and listening to your peers’ concerns or wider business issues, you can gain a better understanding of the problem and subsequently formulate the most optimal and accurate solutions. Active listening plays an important role in individuals’ life, it demonstrates sincerity, and that nothing is being assumed or being taken for granted. Listening is a medium of gaining or exchanging information and knowledge, it helps you achieve your goals and getting things done. It helps building trust and credibility, it is a good supportive activity that people appreciate especially when they are upset or otherwise concerned.
In conclusion, Active Listening can help and benefit the different types of relationships, whether they are personal or professional i.e between teachers and students, parents and their children, husband and wife and between friends. It is a tool for effective communication leading to healthier relationships that result in emotional security which could help in overcoming isolation.
– Contributed by Anoushka Thakkar