Dr Becky speaks about suicide prevention. What to do if someone you know is suicidal.
Surviving a suicide attempt by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge | suicide survivor Kevin Hines
What to do if Someone you Know is Suicidal
Suicidal ideation is distressingly common, and it can be terribly difficult for the loved ones of a suicidal person to know how to help.
If you are concerned that someone you care about may be contemplating suicide, communication is key. Sometimes, people worry that if they even mention the idea, they might “put it into” someone’s head.
However, the converse is the case: if you ask a clear question, such as, “Are you thinking of ending your life?” you can begin a dialogue with them, and give them the chance to talk about the feelings and behaviours that have made you suspect that they may be considering taking this drastic step.
If they answer “no”, they may still have anxieties around their life situation and/or their mental health that they would like to talk about.
If the answer is yes, don’t panic. The best you can do is to listen to them without blame.Stay calm and listen to them talk about their feelings without passing judgement on them. Ask open-ended questions that will invite conversation, such as, “How long have you been feeling this way?”Take their feelings seriously, and do not try to “cheer them up” by saying things that minimise their distress or the validity of how they are feeling.
Nobody becomes suicidal overnight. Typically, feelings of distress and anxiety escalate over a long period of time. However, if you are concerned that your loved one may be at imminent risk of killing themselves, you should certainly contact the emergency services.
If—which is more likely—you are very concerned about them, but they do not seem to be at risk of killing themselves at present, you can reach out to your doctor or to social services. Do your best to help your suicidal loved one to access the care and support they need. With the right support, most people with suicidal ideation can and do get better.
If someone you care about is experiencing suicidal ideation, this can have a serious impact on your own mental health, too. You may feel angry with them, and then feel guilty about your negative emotions. The stress and strain of worrying about someone else may cause you to experience anxiety or other mental health problems.
You need to take care of your own mental health at this difficult time, and even consider seeing a Counsellor or Psychotherapist who can help you to manage your own difficult emotions, and to develop useful strategies to help the suicidal person in your life.
If you would like to talk to someone about suicidal ideation, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: +442038872866 or book online.
Sang-Mi, Park; Sung-il Cho; and Sang-Sik, Moon. ‘Factors Associated with Suicidal Ideation: Role of Emotional and Instrumental Support’. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. Volume 69, Issue 4, October 2010.
- K. Vanderhorst&S. McLaren Dr. ‘Social Relationships as Predictors of Depression and Suicidal Ideation in Older Adults’. Aging & Mental Health, Volume 9, 2005 – Issue 6