How to Support Someone with Suicidal Thoughts

If you’re supporting someone recovering from a crisis, be there to support them and stay involved. Recovery can take time.

Talking about suicide may be hard. It can also save lives.

Sometimes depression feels unbearable. Some people get to the point where life doesn’t seem worth living. Suicidal thoughts aren’t unusual, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, they’re a sign that it’s time to talk to someone.

Every year, approximately 703 000 people attempt suicide and there are many more who take their own lives. Each suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities, and entire nations, as well as the people left behind. As a matter of fact, the pandemic is presenting a global challenge not just in terms of infectious disease but also for mental health. Concerns have been expressed that, at their most extreme, these consequences could manifest as increased suicide rates

Suicide: Risks, Causes, Signs, Thoughts, Prevention and Treatment.

But How to Help Someone You Know Who is Suicidal?

It is much easier to get through a crisis if you have someone who listens, takes your concerns seriously, and helps you talk about your thoughts and feelings. Almost every suicidal crisis has at its centre a strong ambivalence: “I can’t handle the pain anymore,” but not necessarily, “I want to be dead forever!”

In the face of terrible pain and desperation, most suicidal people want something more than to die. Instead, they want to find a way to cope and someone they can turn to.

The steps below can help you support your loved ones through a moment of crisis.

Take them at their word.

Asking the question “Are you thinking about suicide?” communicates that you’re open to speaking about suicide in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Through this direct, unbiased approach, you can encourage dialogue about their emotional pain and help everyone involved determine what next steps need to be taken. 

Take their answers seriously and do not ignore them, especially if they indicate that they are thinking about suicide. When they tell you what is going on, it’s incredibly important to listen to their reasons for being in so much pain as well as to listen for any reasons they might want to stay alive. Help them focus on their reasons for living and avoid trying to impose your reasons for them to stay alive.

Addressing rising cases of suicide among teenagers in Nigeria | The  Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News — Features — The Guardian  Nigeria News – Nigeria and World News

Be present.

You can show support for someone by being physically present with them, talking to them on the phone when you can, or any other way you can. An important aspect of this step is to make sure you follow through with the ways in which you say you’ll be able to support the person. Do not commit to anything you are not willing or able to accomplish. 

Help them connect.

Connecting someone with thoughts of suicide with ongoing support can help them establish a safety net in case they find themselves in a crisis. Connecting them with supports and resources in their communities could also be an important part of a safety net. Explore some of these possible supports with them – are they currently seeing a mental health professional?  Have they in the past? Is this an option for them currently? Are there other mental health resources in the community that can effectively help?

Suicide Prevention

Nevertheless, thoughts of suicide, even if they seem vague, should always be taken seriously.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to helping a friend who’s thinking about suicide, but you can never go wrong by showing compassion and support.

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