How To Respond to a person who says he is feeling Suicidal?
Suicide is a sad and frightening reality of humankind. Even though we are living in 2020 right now, unfortunately, awareness regarding suicide is still questionable.
Many times, suicidal people are termed as “weak”, but that is not only extremely insensitive, it shows a dangerous amount of apathy towards a suicidal person.
“If you hate your life, change your way of living, suicide should not be committed because what if…”
The topics of mental health and depression didn’t rise into the mainstream conversation until a few years ago. While it’s better late than never, this sadly means the majority of us were never openly educated on how to support someone who is struggling and contemplating suicide.
Many people were trained in CPR to help someone in a physical crisis. But until now, nobody was empowered with the tools to help someone in the throes of a mental crisis, despite the fact that it’s a far more commonly faced situation.
So, if the day finally came, where a loved one turned to you and uttered the words, “I don’t really feel like being here anymore…” and you were left stunned, and feeling at a loss for what to do, or say – or suddenly felt a huge amount of discomfort and pressure to “fix” the problem, like the weight of someone’s life was in your hands – that’s totally normal, and you didn’t mess up.
If this is your situation, I want to start by saying a few things.
1. Relax. It’s okay. I know this feels really heavy, but you don’t have to fix anything. And I’m about to share with you the simplest, most effective ways to support someone who is suicidal.
2. Suicidal ideation is an incredibly NORMAL and sadly under-addressed human condition. If someone has gotten this far, all it means is that the levels of their emotional pain are exceeding their abilities to cope with it. When that glass spills over, they either seek outside support to manage or fantasize about – or even try – ending their life.
“But in the end, one needs more courage to live than to kill himself. Be strong.”
3. The fact that someone opened up to you about these feelings is a great sign. It not only means that they want to live, and they want help, but they trusted you enough to ask for it. You have the opportunity to see and love them more fully than anyone probably ever has in their life before.
4. Thank You. So much. Seriously. The fact that you’re proactively looking for guidance to support someone and want to do better, is amazing. You are such a beautiful person.
So, what do you do?
Earlier in life, the best advice you might have been given to deal with this situation was a teacher or advertisement saying, “If someone you know is suicidal, tell them to call this number…” and directing you to a suicide hotline. I’m so glad that it exists as a service, but it is FAR from the best thing, and especially the first thing, you could offer someone.
I’m going to share the best strategies and approaches I’ve learned and used over the years to help someone contemplating suicide. First, we need to address any discomfort and unease you might be feeling, which will get in the way of navigating this in the best possible way.
Dealing With Your Discomfort
The topic of suicide makes most people deeply uncomfortable. Why is that?
The truth is – unless you’ve had some personal trauma from previous experiences with suicide – the level of panic and discomfort you feel isn’t coming from a place you might expect. It’s not because of the thought of someone taking their own life. It’s a reflection of your comfort level with your own emotions in general, and particularly dark and painful ones. In other words, it’s a sign of repression.
This core unease stems from being unfamiliar with radical vulnerability and divulging raw pain. When you don’t know how to confront and talk about your own emotions, how could you be expected to comfortably hold space for someone else’s?