What to Do if Someone you Love is Suicidal
Trying to cope with someone you love who’s feeling depressed and suicidal is always a very stressful, nerve-wracking experience! Understandably you’re afraid to say something wrong and upset the person even more than they already are. Hopefully, this information will make it a little bit easier for you if you ever find yourself in this position.
There are many different factors that have been identified as risk factors for suicidal ideation. I’ve listed several below:
History of a mental health disorder or mood disorder such as depression or anxiety
Actively using a substance such as alcohol or other drugs
The person has a history of trying to kill themselves
Someone in the person’s family has killed themselves, or there has been someone in the community that recently attempted suicide
The person has been feeling hopeless
The person recently suffered losses including loss of a relationship, financial losses, loss of a pet, etc
The person has a history of trauma or abuse
The person has a major physical illness, especially if the person is in a lot of pain or if the illness is untreatable or chronic in nature
The person has a history of behaving impulsively or aggressively
The person believes there is a stigma attached to asking for help
Warning signs are those things the person might be saying or doing that might clue you into an increased immediate risk for suicide with them. These are some of the things to look for:
The person talks about being a burden to others
The person’s sleep patterns have changed, he/she either sleeps a lot or has not sleeping enough
The person talks about feeling hopeless and depressed or that they have no reason to live
The person talks about feeling trapped or in pain
The person is isolating or withdrawing from people around them and is staying to themself
The person might be having extreme mood swings
If the person is very angry and talking about getting revenge
The person is giving away their belongings, taking care of obligations, or looking for someone to care for their pets
You notice increased use of alcohol or drugs
The person has been gathering what they need for their plan such as purchasing a gun or stockpiling pills
The person is saying goodbye to friends and family
What to Do
The first thing to remember is that talking to a person about their feelings or asking them if they are suicidal will not cause them to try and kill themselves. This has been proven untrue. In fact, allowing the person to talk may actually decrease their feelings of being so alone and reduce their risk of self-harm!
So, what can you do to help
1. As stated above, encourage the person to talk with you, and really listen to what they’re
saying. You DO NOT have to fix everything for them! Just be there as a friend. You can always ask some questions to get them to open up more like, “How are you coping?”, “Do you ever feel like hurting yourself?”, “Are you thinking about dying?”, “have you ever thought that you didn’t want to be here anymore?”. If the person isn’t feeling suicidal, they will tell you, and you WILL NOT make them suicidal simply by asking about it.
2. DO NOT leave the person alone. Just your presence there will usually be enough to stop someone from trying to kill themselves.
3. Remove any means of self-harm from the vicinity. This includes removing from the home and locking up any guns or any pills the person might have.
4. Get in touch with a professional as soon as it is possible. You can call the person’s doctor, therapist, or psychiatrist, or you can call 911. If you prefer and can do so safely, bring the person to the ER immediately to be evaluated. Or, as the last option, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). If the person is a veteran, you can use the same number, then push “1” for the Veteran’s Crisis Line.
If the person is not suicidal but is depressed, you can help them to get some professional help. I can be reached at this link for depression treatment.