It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide. But what's scarier is not being able to reach out to them if they're no longer here.
HOW TO BE HELPFUL TO SOMEONE THREATENING SUICIDE
- Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
- Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
- Don't dare him or her to do it.
- Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
- Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer clichè reassurance.
- Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
- Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
BE AWARE OF FEELINGS
Many people at some time in their lives think about suicide. Most decide to live because they eventually come to realize that the crisis is temporary and death is permanent. On the other hand, people having a crisis sometimes perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. These are some of the feelings and thoughts they experience:
- Can't stop the pain
- Can't think clearly
- Can't make decisions
- Can't see any way out
- Can't sleep, eat or work
- Can't get out of depression
- Can't make the sadness go away
- Can't see a future without pain
- Can't see themselves as worthwhile
- Can't get someone's attention
- Can't seem to get control
Your Words Make All the Difference
- Let me know you care and will help me through the journey.
- Help me look forward to in the future, even if it’s something seemingly simple like a movie that’s about to come out. Anything that gives me a reason to keep fighting is a big deal and worth talking about.
- Be straight with me. Trying to sugarcoat what you say does more damage than good. Having someone acknowledge and validate their experience can be a relief.
- Telling me that the good things in my life are a reason for living just makes me feel judged.
- Try not to say “Time’s up.” It makes me think you are counting down the minutes, just waiting for a chance to get rid of me.
Show You Care
- Give me a pat on the back or a subtle gesture that shows me that you really care about me.
- Allow me to take an active role by bringing in my journals, books about mental health or even charts analyzing my mood. It may not be your style, but it works for me.
- Let me keep my music. It isn’t causing my depression, in fact it proves that I’m not alone.
- I understand that you need to set boundaries, but letting me call you at 2 a.m. if I am feeling unsafe can make me feel much more supported.
Prevent My Attempt
- Talk openly and honestly about my suicide attempt— not just the underlying causes.
- Work with me to create a safety plan.
- Don’t be afraid to ask me if I have a gun, stash of pills, or another way to try to hurt myself again.
- Help me identify my triggers and learn how to avoid them.
- Don’t even think about making me sign a safety contract.