Everyone feels depressed sometimes, but the person who is feeling suicidal is at the lowest point imaginable. Suicide is a serious problem in the United States and is one of the leading causes of death among young people. If someone you know is talking about suicide, don’t assume that it is a cry for attention; take the threat seriously. If you want to help someone who is talking about suicide, here is what you can do:
Don’t Panic or Act Shocked
If a friend or family member confides to you that they are contemplating suicide, don’t act shocked. Doing so forces them to worry about your feelings and may make them feel more distance from you, which can actually increase their desire to commit suicide. While it may be difficult to remain calm, responding to their suicide threat in a calm and loving way will be much more helpful than acting shocked, hurt, or offended.
Don’t Minimize the Problem
While it’s true that the vast majority of problems in life eventually pass, reminding the suicidal person of this may not help. To them, their problem or problems have become unmanageable, so if you insist that it’s not that bad, they may feel misunderstood and even more isolated. Instead, listen attentively and sympathetically to their concerns. The longer you keep them talking, the longer they have gone without harming themselves! Further, by talking about the problem to a trusted loved one, they may realize independently that the problem will not last forever.
Don’t call the person crazy for threatening suicide, and don’t judge their emotional reactions to their problems and depression. Instead, allow them to express their emotions in whatever way they need to-crying, screaming, yelling- as long as it does not involve harming themself or another person. By allowing the person to vocalize their feelings in a safe space, you may help to lessen their suicidal thoughts and sense of desperation.
Choose Who You Tell Carefully
It may be necessary to contact a friend or family member in order to get the person you care for help for their suicidal feelings. However, you should still strive to keep your loved one’s confidences, and choose who you tell carefully. Aim to pick the most competent person you can, and only tell someone who is capable of intervening and helping. If you are a student, consider telling a trusted teacher or professor. Do not gossip to other people about the suicide threat.
Know Why Suicide Happens
One excellent suicide intervention website states, “Suicide happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain.” Know that the person you love is not a bad person for contemplating suicide. They have simply run out of resources to cope with their pain. Try to provide them with a resource in yourself- talk to them, and offer to assist in whatever way you can.
Don’t Leave Them Alone
Someone who is suicidal should not be left alone- very few people kill themselves when someone else is present, and leaving someone after they have made a suicide threat is a very dangerous move. Make sure someone is available to be with the suicidal person and help them until the feelings pass.
You cannot fix someone else’s life, and you cannot stop someone from killing himself or herself. A person who is suicidal needs serious intervention. Encourage your loved one to seek counseling, or call a suicide intervention hotline. You can call a hotline yourself as well; the people who staff these hotlines are well-equipped to help you help your loved one. Some suicide hotline numbers are: