*NOTE: ALTHOUGH THIS IS A POST ON HELPING OTHERS WHO ARE SUICIDAL, THIS POST DOES NOT APPLY TO SOMEONE WHO IS ACTIVELY TRYING TO END THEIR LIFE. IF SOMEONE HAS A PLAN AND CONFESSES TO YOU, PLEASE SAVE THE MESSAGES AND CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY SO THEY CAN BE ASSISTED BY PROFESSIONAL CARE. ALTHOUGH THEY MAY BE MAD AT FIRST, THEY WILL THANK YOU SOMEDAY FOR SAVING THEIR LIFE *
Suicide is kind of a dirty word in the world we live in. It’s not talked about often enough. A lot of us don’t know the protocol on what to do if someone we know confesses they’re suicidal. Do we just ignore it? How are you supposed to act towards them? What is actually wrong with them? What are you supposed to do?
In this post I will discuss how to assist and understand someone who has suicidal thoughts, from a person who has been suicidal before.
This can be one of the most important things you do when someone opens up to you. In this time you can assess if they are actually planning on killing themselves, or if it’s a lingering thought (suicidal ideation). If you are concerned that the person is actually thinking about taking their life, please call 911, and have them seek medical attention. Even more than assessing the situation listening can also bring comfort to the friend/family member/stranger who is talking to you, and will create a trusting relationship.
DON’T TALK DOWN TO THEM
There is nothing worse than opening up and then having someone baby talk to you. For me anyway it’s like, I’m suicidal, but I’m an adult, and I just want comfort, not someone who doesn’t understand. Don’t talk down to the person, or belittle them in any way. What they’re feeling is real, and intense; don’t make them feel that their mental battle isn’t a legit one. Mental illness (and everything that comes with it) is one of the toughest battles someone could face.
HELP THEM SELF-SOOTHE
There are a lot of different therapeutic treatments that can help someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, but the easiest (and most instant) way is to practice a therapy skill called self-soothe. Self-soothing techniques are simple. They are your senses; sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Ask them which one they are most connected to, and come up with some ways to get in touch with that sense. Examples include (but are not limited to); Sight-people watch, go to a hotel and watch people in the lobby, go for a walk on the beach, painting, window shopping. Smell-bake, buy scented candles and burn them, take a bubble bath. Taste-go to a new restaurant and taste new foods, cook some comfort foods, go to a food festival. Touch-head to a local animal shelter and play with the animals, pick flowers. Hearing-listen to music, play music, mediation.
TALK TREATMENT & BE THERE FOR THEM IF THEY SEEK HELP
Ask them if they see a doctor that they trust, or if they have medications. Help remind them to take meds, practice holistic treatment. Go to a therapy appointment, or ask them to ask their therapist how you can help. Or even help them make the call to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255) And if they do need to go to a hospital eventually, don’t treat them like an outcast. Call and find out visiting hours. Bring them approved presents. And don’t treat them any different than you would have before they confessed to you.
This is the hardest, but the most crucial of the items on this list. Follow through with the person. If they’re struggling with a mental illness, odds are someday treatment plans will stop working, and they will feel this way again. Sometimes this even happens without a failure in treatment. It’s a constant battle, and it doesn’t just shut off! Ask them occasionally how they’re feeling. Get to know how they’re coping. Keep providing your help.
People with mental illness are going to feel suicidal but you can help them. We aren’t hopeless; and you can bring our hope back.