As a therapist on PlusGuidance, you might in rare cases be contacted by people having acute crises such as feeling suicidal, even if those are not the type of clients you normally help. If that happens, bear in mind that people in acute crises may not know how best to get help. They may have searched the internet for people and information that could help them and may have come across you as a potential source of help. Because our platform is not suitable for addressing acute crises, we have made this guide for you so you know how to handle such instances.
Being listed on our platform brings with it the responsibility of dealing with sensitive requests in the utmost considerate way, and you can do this by following this guide. We advise you to read it through as soon as you can after signing up on PlusGuidance, so you are prepared to respond quickly in the most appropriate way to queries that you feel contain an element of the potential of self harm.
Do not ignore or turn people away who have approached you for help. You may be the only person (s)he may contact, so how you respond could have a great deal of impact on the person’s next decisions. Keep in mind that they may not think rationally and could interpret silence as a rejection.
What information should you give a suicidal person?
If the person is from the UK:
Tell them to call Samaritans’ 24-hour free helpline on 116 123.
Tell them to call NHS helpline on 111. They can direct the person to a crisis team or even call out an ambulance if the person is in immediate danger to themselves.
If the person is a man, they can call the CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) helpline for men on 0800 58 58 58.
If you know the person is under 35, they can also call HOPELine UK at 0800 068 41 41 - the helpline run by Papyrus UK.
If the person is from the US:
Tell them to call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (open 24 hours every day) at 1-800-273-8255.
Go to Befrienders or here to look for the most appropriate helpline. Some telephone helplines are free to use in specific parts of the US, so if you know where the person in crisis is based, you can choose the most appropriate number from that list.
If the person is from anywhere else in the world:
If you know which country the client is from, visit Befrienders Worldwide or here to find a relevant telephone helpline/contact for the person in need of help.
How should you communicate?
Respond to the person via email or direct messaging via PlusGuidance, giving them details of who is able to help them. Make it clear to the person that the helpline number will put them in touch immediately with a person who will listen and help. You should keep the tone neutral and non-emphatic while making clear to the person that you hear them. Don’t interrogate or provoke defensive behaviours. Keep your message brief, unambiguous and supportive.
Make sure you also mention that if they are having an immediate emergency, they should call the emergency services (e.g. 999 in the UK, 911 in the US) straight away so they can get help quickly. See our patient-specific guide Are You In A Crisis?
for more info on how to deal with other kinds of acute situations. We strongly urge you to read this through as well so you are fully prepared to refer to the most appropriate form of help, should you be approached by people suffering these acute situations.
The most effective help will be the telephone helplines available, as they have been set up to deal with acute crises that need dealing with immediately, as opposed to reading internet forums or emailing select people. Referring to the helplines is also the most straightforward way to help people in a crisis who need to speak with someone who has all the resources and skills to deal with their particular situation. You should not involve yourself in the help - just guide them in the right direction with the appropriate phone numbers. Don’t say “I’m sorry, I can’t help you” or reject them in any other way. They need to be given hope, and your helpful prompts will go a long way in doing that.
If they contact you by phone, be thoughtful with your tone of voice, the way you would with your own clients in sensitive matters. On the phone, give them the relevant phone numbers so they can get in touch with the right people. Ask their permission to text them the number if need be, if they have reached your mobile phone and haven’t got anything to write on. Just make sure, in as calm and friendly way as possible, that the information you give them is understood and noted.
If you are unsure about your country’s confidentiality laws, you should ask your professional organisation, an attorney or other suitable expert for further advice. Generally speaking, everything you communicate via PlusGuidance is your responsibility and not PlusGuidance’s. This platform is created to facilitate online sessions with clients, but any interactions between you, clients, members of the public or any other person contacting you via the platform will be your responsibility only. This guide is created for informational purposes and we strongly recommend following the advice included. Just bear in mind that any legal information mentioned does not replace the advice of a qualified attorney relevant to your location and field of work.