These 7 Words Help Suicidal People Stay Alive

Dan Pierce from Mentally Fit and Dr. Mark Goulston, M.D. talk about suicide prevention. 
Suicide prevention experts respond to the video below.


Dr. Donna Volpitta, Ed.D
founder at the Center for Resilient Leadership

I am an educator who teaches people the brain science of resilience and emotional/mental health. As Founder and Director of The Center for Resilient Leadership, I created a model that explains the brain's response to challenge and helps people to understand how to use challenges as opportunities to build resilience.

I agree with Dr. Goulston in many ways, particularly in the way that he has given people strategies to address the issue. The seven words that he uses are appropriate and are likely to have the response that he describes. The brain science that he does touch upon is accurate.

I would, however, add a bit to his work:
a) Teach the brain science of why we are feeling these emotions.
b) Focus in on the idea that these feelings pass. When people are suicidal, they feel like they will always feel those 7 words. It is important to focus on the fact that they are temporary.
c) Add a piece about prevention and how to engage in behaviors that will prevent the feelings raised by the 7 words. When we feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment, connect with other people, and practice healthy habits, we are less likely to get to the point of suicide.

​Dr. Fran Walfish

Most people are not aware of the fact that it is okay to ask the person direct questions including, “Are you having thoughts of hurting yourself?”; “Are you feeling hopeless?”; “If you were to do it, how would you kill yourself?”.​

It is imperative to also remind the desperate person that ending their life is a permanent termination to a temporary problem and state of mind. Remind them of all the people who would be devastated without them in their life. Be warm, loving, comforting and understanding while injecting hope.

​Maria Sanders, LSW
​social worker

I am a Licensed Social Worker and PCI Certified Parent Coach. I work with parents struggling with any parenting challenge, from getting a child to sleep to communicating with a taciturn teen. I work one on one with parents virtually or in my Montclair office. I also run parent workshops in schools, pediatrician offices and other community spaces.

I absolutely agree with what Dr. Mark said in his video. Eye contact is important when it comes to someone feeling disconnected and potentially suicidal. Making eye contact with someone allows them to feel seen and heard. Connecting with this person in a safe and non-judgemental way is imperative. I love that Dr. Mark talked about not giving solutions and instead coming from a place of curiosity.

We can learn so much about someone’s experience and perspective by asking questions. Parents and adults alike, may think they know and understand why their child may be considering suicide, but sometimes understanding comes more from the feeling of being understood.

I work with parents of children who are experiencing challenging behaviors. Threat of suicide is a common thing that parents discuss. I work with parents to educate them on the importance of opening up dialogue with their teens. First parents need to address their own fears and anxiety regarding suicide and their child’s potentially self- harming behaviors. If we want our children to not feel afraid to share with us the truth of the pain they are experiencing we need to make sure we first address our own internal landscape of our thoughts and feelings.

As a parent we often want to fix situations and give solutions for our children’s discomfort and pain. Instead we need to be an open ear and keep an open mind by accepting our children for who they are and not for who we wish them to be.

Accepting our children for where they are in the present moment is a challenging task for many parents. But when our children are in this much pain where they are contemplating suicide connecting with them and providing them a platform to share their thoughts and feelings is essential. 

​Traci Ruble
Founder at Sidewalk Talk

I am a psychotherapist and I run an international street listening non-profit where 6000 of us listen on sidewalks in over 50 cities and 12 countries. It is called Sidewalk Talk. We are not crisis interventionists...we are bringing connection back to our communities for connection is the missing nutrient in our society. But, we do prepare our listeners with some basic crisis intervention training.

I 100% agree with Dr. Goulston that listening creates connection and connection prevents suicide.

The one piece that he leaves out is the very frank and direct question ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT HARMING YOURSELF? When you say it directly, conversationally, and matter-of-factly it is an opening to tell the truth. I love all of his questions and intervention but it is important to ask. 

The next questions are do you have a plan because that lets you know how serious this thought is. And finally, is there a likelihood of carrying out the plan? You ask "how would you harm yourself?" And find out if they have access to the means to carry out their plan. If all roads point to yes, for most of us, we need backup. Calling 911 or even a suicide crisis line together can save a life. You become the bridge, as listener, for taking the right next action to prevent an impulsive act in a moment of real despair. Sometimes we need to be accompanied in the steps to calling more resources. Be there to make those calls with folks.

The people at crisis lines are some of the coolest most relatable and supportive people you will ever meet. They aren't cold and serious and clinical. They are just awesome humans who are some of the best listeners. But sometimes someone feeling suicidal needs you to bridge that phone call with them. 

​Jade McAuliffe
​Life Coach

My name is Jade McAuliffe, and I'm a life-coach and author of the Amazon best-selling book, "Wake Me from the NIGHTMARE: Hope, Healing and Empowerment After Suicide Loss." I've survived complex childhood trauma, two suicide attempts, and multiple suicide losses within my family of origin.

The method I use when stuck in emotional pain is something I refer to as the "Feel, Realize, and Release Exercise."

I scan my body and stop when I discover tightness or discomfort. I name the feeling associated with the discomfort and note where I feel it. I observe any stories, colors, visions, sounds, or anything else connected with the pain, and speak or write about the details associated with it until I feel completely satisfied.

As a final step, I thank my body for disclosing the information and shred anything I've written.

Observing and staying with the pain is the purpose of this exercise. Giving it a voice and offering self-validation helps to release it.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Mark's "7 Words to Suicide Prevention" approach, as I believe permission, expression, and connection (even if it's only to the self) are the keys to sustainable healing.

Everyone wants to be seen, heard, and acknowledged, and speaking truth, especially when it's ugly and scary, really does release the grip of desperation.

Allowing others their own experience, without censoring, shaming, or blaming, is the greatest gift anyone can give, and accepting and honoring ourselves is the most important step we'll ever take toward suicide prevention.

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