Discover What to Do If Someone is Suicidal
It can be very scary to realize someone you know is depressed enough to consider suicide. For people who have never thought of killing themselves, the thought of suicide is unimaginable. For people stuck in the deep well of suicide, it can seem like a very viable option to the pain they are in.
There are things you can do to help.
Suicidal thinking is different than having a bad day or few weeks. It takes over the mind and becomes an endless tidal wave of pain. The most important thing to realize is that it is rarely possible to just "snap out of it". When someone is suicidal, they no longer have the ability to practice coping skills to deal with their life. It is crucial to be as kind and nonjudgmental as possible.
The most important thing you can do to help someone who may be suicidal is to simply ask them if they are thinking of killing themselves. Please be blunt. It's okay to ask them if they are thinking about suicide. If they are considering suicide, you are not going to make anything worse by posing the question.
Many people who are suicidal will welcome the opportunity to talk about their feelings if they feel safe. Because of the shame, the stigma, the scariness, and the embarrassment of suicide, many people are hesitant to bring their feelings up themselves.
If the person responds that they are thinking about suicide, please stay calm and resist the urge to try and talk them out of it. Feeling suicidal is terrifying, and by giving them the freedom to talk with you, you are giving them a gift of life.
While it may seem obvious to you that their thinking is irrational, one of the trademarks of suicidal thinking is thought-distortion. It is rarely possible for a suicidal person to see their situation clearly.
The next step is to find out if they have a plan, a method, or a timeframe for their suicide. The more detailed their plan, the more likely they are to possibly act. To ask about a plan, you can say, "Have you thought about how you'd do it?" You can ask if they have set a date or a general time. Try to get as much information as possible without pushing them.
The next step in the process is to ask them why they want to die. Again, it is important to stay as calm as possible through this conversation. This is often much harder with someone close to you than with an acquaintance.
As they share their reasons for wanting to die, please resist the human urge to argue with them about their reasons and just try to listen. Even if the reasons make no sense to you, they are vitally important to the person who is hurting and thinking about suicide.
After allowing them to share their reasons for wanting to die, you can ask them what is keeping them alive. Sometimes the suicidal person will naturally steer the conversation in this direction. If not, ask. Say, "I understand you're really hurting. What has been keeping you alive so far?"
Answers can be as varied as family, friends, pets, work, religion, fear, etc. Support and gently reinforce their reasons for wanting to live. Even if a reason seems utterly silly, support it.
When I was suicidal, one of my reasons for not killing myself was that I would feel guilty if all my beautiful flowers died. It didn't matter that I had killed countless plants before; this was a reason I clung to in effort to stay alive. Support the reasons.
A common distortion in the mind of someone suicidal is the belief that their loved ones will really be better off without them. It is difficult for someone thinking of suicide to see a different reality, and this is a difficult obstacle to overcome. The easiest way to try and surmount this is to ask them if they have read any books or stories by people who have lost someone by suicide.
The pain of losing a loved one to suicide is indescribable. Suicide shreds the people left alive. The suicidal person may not believe it if they are simply told that, but reading objective accounts of losing a loved one may help them step outside of their distorted thinking.
When the person has developed a list of reasons they are still alive, write those reasons down for them in their own words. Also, write down your phone number and ask them who else they can call for help if they need it in a crisis moment.Write down those names and numbers as well.
In the United States, a popular suicide hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Outside the United States, the Befrienders has a list of hotline numbers for 60 different countries. Operators are generally well-trained and can provide support and assistance in more crucial suicidal situations.
Please encourage them to see a mental health professional. Recovery from suicidal thinking can be much quicker with help. If they have an imminent plan, please do not leave them alone. If you are in doubt, you can also call a Suicide Hotline and talk with a trained volunteer about the best course of action.
Help them find the resources they need for help and ask for a promise that they will keep themselves safe for a set amount of time. Many times, 24 hours is all a suicidal person can promise.
People thinking of suicide can sometimes be helped by one intervention, and some people are chronically suicidal for years. By giving someone the space and time to sort through their feelings, you can offer them a warm hand towards life.
Suicide does happen, and people do kill themselves no matter how much support they may have. If you have tried to help someone suicidal, you are not responsible for their actions. There is absolutely nothing you could have done to prevent the suicide of someone who was determined to do it.
If you are trying to help someone suicidal, please ensure you have support for yourself. Many emotions can surface in talking about death, especially deliberate, self-inflicted death. Please make sure you nurture yourself and have someone you can talk with about your own feelings.
Helping someone suicidal is scary, and in this case, a single conversation can indeed save a life.