How to Support Someone Who is Having Suicidal Thoughts?
Suicidal thoughts might affect anyone, whether they’re young or old, seem to have their life together or face many struggles. Unfortunately, suicide is still seen as taboo instead of what it should be seen as: a sign of suffering that requires help. If you’ve never experienced suicidal ideation yourself, you might not know what to say to someone who is feeling suicidal. In this blog, we’ll talk about what is helpful and what is not.
Tips on Helping Someone Who is Having Suicidal Thoughts
1. Let them know that you care about them
Being suicidal can make you feel like you’re the only person in the whole world who is suffering so much and like nobody cares about you. Letting your suicidal friend know that they aren’t alone can help them feel more seen and supported. You can ask how they are and try to empathize with how they feel. For example, you could say something like, ‘It must be extremely difficult’ or ‘I’m sorry that you feel this way, it’s not something I’ve experienced but I’ll do my best to be there for you’.
2. Try to understand what they’re going through
Ask them about the reasons they feel this way; are they going through a break-up? Have they been depressed for a while? Are they grieving? Even though it’s difficult for a suicidal person to see things from a different point of view, talking about their thoughts and emotions can be cathartic and bring them a sense of relief.
3. Ask them if they’re planning on ending their life
You might avoid this question because you’re afraid of the answer but finding out if the person is in immediate danger can save their life. Don’t be afraid to be straightforward.
4. Encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional
Ask them about their thoughts on therapy and if they’ve considered any treatment options.
Things to Avoid
1. Don’t look for solutions
If someone is feeling suicidal because their partner has just broken up with them encouraging them to sign up for dating apps isn’t a good idea. A person who experiences suicidal ideation might struggle to think rationally and looking for solutions is invalidating. Instead, try to be compassionate and listen to what they have to say.
2. Be careful not to use invalidating phrases
If you say things like ‘It can’t be that bad’ you might mean well, however, these kinds of phrases might make a suicidal person feel misunderstood and invalidated.
3. Don’t try to talk them out of suicide
If a person lets you know that they’re planning to go through with ending their life, don’t remind them that this decision is going to hurt their family or that they have a lot to live for. Instead, don’t hesitate to contact the authorities.
Lastly, remember to take care of yourself. Knowing that someone you care about is hurting to the point of considering suicide can be a great emotional burden and you don’t have to go through it alone. Contact my Family Psychologist for a confidential chat