Suicide is an uncomfortable fact of our society. We love to treat it like the boogey man and shove it underneath the proverbial bed, away from everyday life. We are terrified to even let the word pass our lips. If we hear people talking about the very subject of suicide, we abruptly try to change topics or try to make the person talking about it “feel better.” This has resulted in many people hiding the struggle that they are currently experiencing in order to stay alive. Unfortunately, that one attempt that loved one or friend makes to talk to us about what is going on may be the only time that they reach out for help before taking their own life. Sadly, due to COVID and all the political unrest in our country today, many people are asking themselves the question of why even bother staying alive. The main question that we must take time to answer is, “How can I help those who are hurting?” I think we all can agree that we can’t avoid this issue any longer, and there are times when we may not be able to keep someone from committing suicide. But we can still let those who are contemplating taking their own lives that they are loved and we want them here with us. Below are just some ideas that you can use when dealing with this situation.
1. When someone tells you that they’ve been thinking about suicide, don’t overreact or panic. Many people who come forward to talk about suicide are already struggling with the worry of possibly being judged by others or having their pain minimized, or worse feeling like their sense of control being taken away. If someone you love tells you that that they have been struggling with suicidal thoughts, try saying something like, “Thank you for letting me know about this. Can you tell me more about what has been happening?” Just this question alone can get someone to open up about how serious these thoughts really are.
2. Don’t promise to fix a situation that you can’t fix. A lot of people who struggle with suicidal thoughts tend to think that their situation is hopeless. Promising to help them change the entire situation puts you in a difficult spot and could set the individual up for even more emotional problems. Asking the question, “How do you want to be helped?” can help you see where the person is at and what actions they consider to be helpful.
3. If your friend or loved one has told you about a plan to commit suicide and they have the means to do so, then contact emergency services or take them to the emergency room. Some family members may have problems with doing this, but any suicide plan should be considered as an immediate threat. If you have any resistance from that family member or friend, you can always say, “I care about you and your safety above all else. I can’t ignore something like this especially when your safety is at risk.”
4. If your family member or loved one does not have a plan to commit suicide, don’t be afraid to have a safety plan put in place. There are templates that you can download online and have
your family member or loved one fill out. This can also help you with knowing what are your loved ones warning signs that they are in a dangerous state of mind. If you ever feel concerned about your loved one and their state of mind, you can take them to a mental health professional such as a counselor, psychiatrist, or even an emergency room to see if they need to be further evaluated. Once a plan is put together, make sure that you, your loved one, and another point person have a copy of the plan and be ready to act on the it in case of a crisis.
5. Don’t be afraid to get help for your loved one or friend. Suicidal ideation is a very risky and very difficult situation to maneuver, and if you don’t feel comfortable or feel like you have the ability to help then don’t put yourself in that position. You can still provide support in other ways such as taking them to their counseling appointments, or checking in with them every day through phone or video chat. Never underestimate the power of a caring attitude or actions in this case.
Suicide is a reality that we all must face at some point. It can be very difficult for any of us to speak about due to our culture being hyper focused on what makes us comfortable or happy. In order to provide help to our loved ones and friends who struggle with this, we have to be willing to be present in their pain with them. This doesn’t mean that we take on their pain. It just means that we show them that it’s okay to hurt, but this hurt is temporary