Ways to help a Suicidal Person
Ways to help a suicidal person
Every year, almost 45,000 Americans commit suicide. Worldwide numbers show nearly 800,000 people commit suicide. That is 1 person every 40 seconds. One million people attempt to end their lives while nine million think about it. That’s a lot of people, considering there are only 7.6 billion on the planet. But something can be done. Here are ways to help a suicidal person who may come to you for help. But let’s get some background first.
Reasons why someone considers suicide:
- Relationship problems: break-ups, divorce, abandonment
- Family issues
- Sexual, physical or emotional abuse
- Drug or alcohol problems
- Mental illness, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression to name a few
- Major loss and grief such as a death or the suicide of a friend or family member
- School or work problems
- Unemployment or being unemployed for a long time
- Feeling like they don’t fit in anywhere
- Financial or legal problems
- Problem that they can’t see a solution for
Almost everyone who takes their own life gives some clue or warning. Whether it is a note, a literal cry for help, or other, more subtle ways of telling you, there are signs. Never ignore suicide threats. Take suicidal thoughts and feelings very seriously and help the person who has come to you find effective help. But until you can, you may be that help.
Warning signs of suicide:
- Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
- Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
- Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Withdrawing from friends, family and society
- Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all the time
- Giving away possessions
- Marked decrease in activities or performance
- Saying they are going to kill themselves, “life is not worth living”, or other similar statements.
What can you do?
Learn the warning signs! They are your first line of defense and the loudest cry for help there is!
Be available to listen and talk. Show and tell them that you care about them. Be ready to listen non-judgmentally. The last thing they need is someone telling them they are kidding or they are wrong. Just the act of listening can go a long way.
Don’t be afraid to ask the person about suicide. You will not be putting thoughts into their head or causing them to want to commit suicide — confronting it head on is the best thing you can do. Don’t appear shocked or scared if they tell you and certainly do not argue about whether suicide is right or wrong or if they will ‘go to Hell’ for it. Ask the question directly “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?”
Do not guilt them into stopping, show compassion.
If you decide that the situation is serious enough and that the person has a plan and the means to execute the plan, do not leave the person alone unless you feel that you are physically threatened.
Call the suicide hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), nearest hospital emergency room, or 911. There are other suicide lines as well, such as the Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) which works closely with LGBTQ kids and the Trans Lifeline (US: 877-565-8860 Canada: 877-330-6366), which is a hotline made by transfolx, staffed by transfolx, for transfolx.
Talk about what you can do together to keep them safe. Do not agree to keep it a secret; you should not be the only one supporting this person. You may need help from someone else to persuade them to get help.
Encourage the person to seek professional help. If they refuse help, contact someone in authority immediately — an angry friend is better than a dead one. Maintain contact with the person until help is secured.
Thoughts of suicide can return, so ask them to promise to reach out and tell someone. Asking them to promise makes it more likely they will tell someone and let them know they are not alone. They will also know you care.
Questions to ask someone you suspect is suicidal
- Are you going to hurt yourself?
- Do you have a plan on how to hurt yourself?
- How are you going to do it?
- When and where are you going to do it?
- Is this method available to you? (The more complete the plan the more likely the person is to act upon it.)
- What is the pain you are experiencing like? How can we ease the pain?
- Are there times when it isn’t so bad? How do you feel then? What do you think about?
- Do you have anyone you talk to or anything that you can do to help you?
- Have you tried suicide before?
- Are you seeing a doctor or therapist regularly?
- What happened that made you feel this way?
- How can I help you right now?
A word on cutting
Some people cut or otherwise hurt themselves when they feel overwhelmed by difficult or stressful feelings, or to relieve their inner tension. Many people who cut themselves never attempt to kill themselves. However, in some cases, self-harm is the first indication that someone may be at risk for suicidal behavior. Whether or not they feel an impulse to take their own lives, someone who is cutting or otherwise hurting themselves needs help. Health and mental health professionals are trained to determine whether a person is at risk for suicide, and to suggest a treatment plan to help them with their self-harm behavior and underlying feelings.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Let me know if you have any tips to help a person who is considering suicide.