Responding to suicide within refugee communities can take the form of prevention or direct intervention.
Prevention: Working broadly in a community to decrease risk factors and promote protective factors can help prevent risk for suicide across whole refugee communities. For instance, finding ways to promote social connection and a sense of belonging, connecting refugees with employment and language resources, and conveying a sense of hope that things will become easier may all be important ways to reduce the risk for suicide.
Targeted Intervention: For individuals who are most at risk for suicide, specific steps can be taken to help them through the typically brief period where they are at risk for attempting suicide. Certain warning signs may be present in those most at risk for suicide, such as:
- Making statements that life is not worth living
- Making statements that they will not be around in the future
- Behaving in unexpected and unusual ways
- ‘Saying goodbye’ to loved ones
There may also be culture-specific warning signs that someone is considering suicide. Members of refugee communities are important resources in helping to identify cultural expressions of distress and despair within specific cultural groups.
If an individual seems to be considering or at risk for suicide, targeted intervention can include:
- Asking whether someone is considering suicide
- Referring someone to treatment and/or helping them to call a suicide hotline
- Asking about what is upsetting them and trying to offer a sense of hope
- Staying connected to the person and helping him/her to connect to other people and helpers
- An Investigation into Suicides among Bhutanese Refugees in the US 2009 – 2012 Stakeholders Report
- Report: Suicide Risk Factors among Bhutanese Refugees (IOM)
- SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions
- Refugee Suicide Prevention Training Toolkit
- Suicide among Resettled Refugees: Understanding the social and cultural context for prevention strategies
- Tools and Strategies for Refugee Mental Health Screening: Introducing the RHS-15
- Refugee Mental Health Screening: Operationalizing the RHS-15