I learnt that in the same way that entering a mental health focused profession increased the likelihood of seeing someone you know hurting, so did being a mental health service user. Once upon a time, this had a massive, negative affect on me. I'd often blame myself for not being more supportive or for not noticing the person was struggling so badly. I'd be angry at professionals believing that they'd failed and had 'let it happen.' I'd feel hopeless; thinking that if they couldn't get better then I wouldn't. And so, all of these things would cause me to feel so badly that I'd then self-harm, attempt suicide, have a low mood and/or my hallucinations would worsen. I recently discovered that this has changed now that I'm in recovery, and hopefully this shows through my advice later on in the post.
When I was in the media, I had a number of strangers contact me to tell me that they felt how I used to and they'd ask if they could talk to me. As much as I'd love to help others, I'm not qualified to give such support. More recently, I've had some of my readers message me their thoughts of suicide or tweet that they're going to act on such thoughts. There's a small group of my readers who regularly tweet me but I'd say that largely, I dont really know any of you lovely folks. The only support I can really offer is to reassure you that there's hope, and I'd like to think I'm NOT Disordered is good evidence of this.
It might sound selfish, but you should ensure your own safety before the other person's. It's natural to want to help others but not at the cost of your own wellbeing. And, at the end of the day, how can sacrificing your own wellbeing possibly have any good affect on the situation?
If you feel that you're experiencing negative and harmful thoughts, feelings and actions as a result of seeing someone expressing thoughts of self-harm and suicide etc, there's a number of things you could do to ensure your own safety.
1. Remove, unfollow, block etc. the person.
2. Seek appropriate support from your own mental health team, friends and family or helplines.
3. Take medication (if possible and relevant)
4. Use any coping strategies you've learnt that might help.
5. Remind yourself that a person can't be helped if they don't want to be.
6. Reassure yourself that others will have seen this person's message and so the weight is not entirely on your shoulders.
If you can, once ensuring your own safety, there's a number of things you can do to help the other person.
1. Make the person aware that you've seen their message. That someone has noticed them. That you're here.
2. Depending on how well you know the person, offer to be a listening ear.
3. Reassure them that there's hope.
4. Find out if there's any alternative ways of coping the person could use; and, if you're willing to, recommend or suggest any other skills or coping methods that work for yourself.
5. Suggest they seek help, support and advice from any relevant people, including family, friends and professionals.
6. Give them details of helplines and out of hour services.
7. If necessary, call the police or ambulance service.
There's advice specifically for those on Facebook: http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/what-speak-us-about/if-you’re-worried-about-someone/concerned-about-someone