Saturday, February 20, 2016

Helping Someone Who is Suicidal

I'm not going into specifics, and at the moment everything appears to be fine - so don't worry - but someone very close to me was recently talking about committing suicide. If you've ever been through a similar situation, you know how scary and heart-breaking this is. You have so many different emotions - panic, fear, shame, guilt, disbelief, confusion, distrust, heartbreaking sadness.

 Even if the person is "only" talking about it, it's still an intense situation for everyone involved from the person who is considering suicide, to their friends and family, and the people who are trying to help in the situation (like mental health specialists). I felt so lost as to what to do to help that person and how to help everyone else who is dealing with this. I always like helping my friends and family so having a situation like this that I didn't know how to help was nerve-racking to me.

After we took care of the immediate problem - got the person counseling and set up a plan for them to receive continued help - I did some research as to how to help someone going through this and got some counseling myself.

Mental health is something I feel passionate about and although I don't feel like an expert in this area, I want to use this space on the internet to help others and talk about some mental health issues. I'm writing this post to help anyone who may be going through a similar situation with a loved one right now, in the past, or in the future and hopefully just raise some awareness around suicide.

Helping Someone Who Is Suicidal | from Courtney's Little Things

How to Help Someone Who is Suicidal


If there's weapons, they're extremely distressed, or any other situation which you and the person can't handle alone. Let the 911 dispatcher know what's going on and ask for guidance.

Understand that the person is not "crazy" of a "psycho," they're just sick.

The brain is a part of the body just like your lungs or heart or any other body part. If your brain is a little imbalanced and you're depressed or feeling suicidal, it just means you need to get treatment for that just like you would get treatment for a heart attack, or diabetes, or cancer. Depression is an illness that many people have and there's absolutely no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed to get help for it. Talk to a doctor or counselor/therapist if you're feeling depressed and they'll help you create a treatment plan to help you get better.

Understand how the person is feeling.

Someone who is truly suicidal is without hope, believes no one cares if they live or die, and truly believes they're doing everyone a favor by committing suicide (source). Life has become too overwhelming for them to handle, their coping skills are no longer sufficient to dealt with everything they're going through, and they see suicide as the only way out. They're not doing this out of selfishness or to hurt anyone - they're just consumed by their depression and can't think of anything else. They can't think clearly, can't make the depression or sadness go away, and can't see a future without pain.

Talk openly about it.

Let the person know they can talk to you, and that you love and care about them. Ask them if they're suicidal (it won't plant the idea in their mind or cause it to happen), what's bothering them, and listen to them closely and patiently. Don't act shocked or afraid, judgmental, or try to give them advice if they don't ask for it. What's most important is just listening to the person in a calm, accepting, and open-minded way.

Be available.

Let them know they can call or text anytime. Listen to them, acknowledge what their feelings, and help them work through their problems. Spend time with the person - hang out, watch tv, get outside. Offer to take them to appointments, help with chores, go grocery shopping together, or be work-out buddies.

Help as needed.

If you're like me - one of your first reaction is "how do we fix this?" While you may want to do everything for the person and keep an eye at them, that's not possible for you to do and probably not what the person wants either. It's important for the person to be responsible for their own welfare, develop skills to manage stress and depression, and have a sense of being in control of their life. Encourage them to continue going to counseling, to open up, to get into a good schedule so they can feel like they've regained control of their life - but you don't advise them nonstop! Offer help if they ask for it, but don't force your advice on them.

Set boundaries for yourself.

You want to help the person, but you can't put your own health at risk. It can be exhausting emotionally, mentally, and physically to support someone after someone has been suicidal. You can't be everything to everyone. Make sure there are other people who can support the person, let the person know your boundaries, and continue to practice self-care yourself.

Seek support.

Talk to a close, trusted friend or family member about the situation. Talk to a counselor or therapist about it if you need to. Just because you're not depressed doesn't mean you can't seek help with the situation. It's really emotionally taxing to help and support someone after a suicide attempt, so talk it out with someone you trust, work on stress-management, make time for yourself, and stay healthy (i.e. eat nutritious meals, eat meals consistently, exercise, and get enough sleep).

This site is really helpful if you'd like more information about how to help someone after a suicide attempt and how to take care of yourself throughout the situation. This is also super helpful if you'd like to read more.

Related Posts: Self-Care Ideas, Thoughts on Self-Love, Depression and Me