Many are struggling and feel alone. Much of this struggle is seen in the staggering suicide rates. Suicide is the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. and is in the top 3 leading causes of death in ages 10 – 34.
How can we be helpful to those we love when they are hurting, depressed, or suicidal? If you fear someone in your life is having a hard time and may be having suicidal thoughts, prioritize connection with them.
Don’t be vague or shy around the topic. There is a common fear that if you ask someone about suicide directly, you’ll put that idea in their head. This is not true. If you show that you’re afraid to talk about it, it can come across that you’re afraid of them and don’t understand them. Just be straight to the point, ask how they’re doing, and take the time to listen to what they have to say.
Really listen. Listen without interrupting, and instead of just listening to reply back with a solution to “fix” them, try to listen to gain an understanding of what they’re going through. We don’t listen enough these days. Put your phone down and just be with them and listen. Show that you understand, or are making an active effort to understand, that you care about them, and that you want to be present in their lives.
Give them another option.
When someone is suicidal, they feel like they only have two options: life or death. “On one hand life is really hard right now, but on the other hand, death seems really scary.” Sometimes the most loving thing you can do in this situation is to introduce a new option for them that they might not know is attainable. Let them know that getting help and not feeling this way is possible. This could look something like this: “I know you’re contemplating this, and it may feel like these are your only options right now, but why don’t we consider getting some help first before making this big decision? Would you be willing to receive some help? I will be there for you along the way.”
Help them lean into their protective factors.
Protective factors are anything that has kept them alive up to this point and what will continue to keep them alive. These are things that they find meaning in. Help them rebuild a connection with someone or something they already enjoy. It’s common for people with suicidal thoughts to feel like they’re a burden to others. Tell them how important they are to you and to others when they’re feeling like a burden. Remind them of the people that love them. Remind them of their talents, interests, and passions. Help them see the value that they have to offer. If they’re interested in or passionate about something, for example playing basketball, drawing, or cooking, encourage them to tap into those interests whenever they feel this way to help them work through these feelings.
Do an activity with them.
This talk doesn’t have to be a formal sit-down conversation. If it seems less intimidating to start the conversation by doing something together, try that instead. Go hiking, sit around a campfire, or help each other run errands.
Don’t downplay their thoughts or emotions.
Instead of saying, “You don’t actually want to do that,” remind them that you want them to live, and having them around makes you happy. Help them see that, contrary to how they may feel, they are not a burden to others. Remind them that they bring value to the people around them by simply being who they are.
Get help from a professional.
There are professionals equipped to handle this sort of crisis. Don’t feel like you need to be a hero alone. Take the initiative and call for help.
- Call or Text 988 – the new National Mental Health emergency line. 988 is used for mental health-related emergencies like suicidal thoughts, drug overdose, etc. The National Suicide Prevention line will stay operational as will 911 responding to any crisis they get called into. 988 provides an easier, quicker way to provide specialized support and care for those going through a mental health crisis. Visit 988lifeline.org for more resources.
- Contact Crosswinds Counseling by calling (877) 594-9204 or texting (260) 238-8939 to schedule an appointment with a therapist.
- Go to the emergency room in severe and urgent cases.