Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Helping Those Who Are Suicidal.



Someone has just told you that they are experiencing suicidal thoughts (or, you believe that someone is suffering from suicidal thoughts).

While your eyes well with tears and a lump of fear forms in your throat, your mind is racing thinking what on earth am I meant to say and do to help this person (while secretly wanting to wrap them up in cotton ball and not let them out of your sight)?

Are they being serious? Are they just "attention seeking"? Do they realise that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary illness? Why are they being so selfish? Don't they love me? Can't they see who they'll leave behind? Surely it can't be that bad...


These aren't easy questions to answer, or even understand, but I will try to give some advice on what to say and do and an insight into how the person may be feeling, based on my experience with depression.

1. Are they being serious/ are they just attention seeking?

Treat any mention of suicide as serious; you never know who, if anyone else, they have told, how long they have been feeling this way and whether these are passing thoughts or full on manifestations with planned actions. I would try and dig a little deeper (and I know this can be very confronting).

 You could try questions like:
How long have you been feeling this way?
Have you made any plans to commit suicide?
Do you think about it all of the time?

It will help the person to verbalise their thoughts. Then, when you refer them on to a professional, you can pass on this information to them.

2. Do they realise that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary illness?

 No, they don't. This may be difficult to understand if you have never suffered from depression yourself.

Surely suicide = death?

The sufferer feels as though their body has been "taken over" by an "evil twin" who has inhabited their mind, controls their thoughts and makes them virtually unrecognisable to themselves. The act of suicide, in the mind of the sufferer, is therefore a last desperate attempt to rid themselves of this "evil twin"; without realising that in doing this, they will actually be taking their own life.

Suicidal people don't want to die, they just don't want to continue feeling the immense pain that they are experiencing.

I know this sounds harsh, but you almost have to make the person visualise what suicide means: dying, being placed in a coffin and being buried, friends and family attending a funeral, their photo on top of the coffin, and no longer living life.

That way the person can try to understand the full ramifications of suicide and will hopefully start to understand that it is not a helpful solution. Once they have accepted this, then it will help them to look for other, more helpful solutions.

There is no life after suicide for the sufferer.

3. Why are they being so selfish/why don't they love me/don't they know how it'll impact those around them?

A person who is contemplating suicide is clearly not thinking rationally. Even healthy thinking people sometimes struggle to think of the impacts of their actions on those around them, so could you imagine what it's like to be in so much pain and distress, that you can't escape, control or challenge your own thoughts? In fact, the person may be suffering such a warped way of thinking that they might feel as though suicide is a way to remove their problem, so that others can move on with their lives and not "worry about them anymore."

Try to be patient with the person, and realise that it is their illness, not them, who is controlling these thoughts. 

 It is in no way a reflection of how they feel about those around them. The person certainly doesn't love you any less because of these thoughts, nor would they ever intend to inflict pain on anyone around them; they themselves know how horrible pain can be.

Listen carefully to what they have to say, ask them the difficult, shocking questions, let them know that you don't think any differently of them, let them know that you want to help them, and provide them information for who to contact for help.

You may need to dial the suicide helpline number for them.

 You may need to book them in and accompany them to an appointment. 

You may have to accept that they might need medication and hospitalisation.

Remember that you are not alone, there are professionals out there who can answer your questions and who can talk to the sufferer.

Look after yourself and those are you, 

Kirsty xxxx


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kirsty thank you for your post on how to help someone with suicide. I used it today, and it was a helpful guide in knowing how to react - at least I hope.

It is really difficult on those who are trying to be there for someone with depression. Today I started a confidential support group with the other people I know who are trying to support the suicidal person. I already feel stronger and supported. I really recommend a support group, to talk out your own emotions, to give each other strength to keep being there, and to collectively take action if needed.