How Can You Help a Person Who Has Thoughts of Suicide?

Do something immediately if you suspect someone in your area has thoughts or plans to take their life. Talk to the person, and give yourself time to listen. Talking about suicide is not dangerous and it does not increase the risk of the person taking his or her life. On the contrary, such a call can prevent suicide. To be good support, you may need to help others.

Take it seriously

When you have plans of suicide you often have strong feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and powerlessness. It may feel like there is great darkness inside that no one else can see or understand.

When someone expresses suicidal thoughts, it can be a way to tell about suffering. It does not have to mean that the person sees suicide as the only way out. But it can be a serious intention to actually take one’s life. Thoughts and plans for suicide should therefore always be taken seriously.

The stage between thoughts, plans and actions are different for different individuals. But most people hesitate in the latter and are susceptible to help of various kinds. As a fellow human, you can think that even a small effort can make a big difference. A conversation can go a long way for those who are feeling ill

Get help from others

You can never be responsible for another person’s life, but you can be human support for the person who is feeling bad. If you feel that it is difficult or heavy to be that support alone, you can try to urge the person who is feeling ill to seek help and support from other relatives or in the care.

If you feel great concern for a person who is feeling bad, remember not to carry that fear alone. You don’t have to start feeling bad yourself. Get help from others if you feel that way. 

For example, if you have decided to visit the person who is feeling ill, you can ask someone to accompany you. Another option is that you have someone with you on the phone, or ask someone to be prepared to receive a call if you need to call and get support. Get help from others.

It is not dangerous to talk about suicide

When you meet a person who is thinking about taking his life, it is natural to feel both powerlessness and fear. Then it can be good to remember that it is not dangerous to talk about suicide and that it does not increase the risk of someone killing themselves. Rather, it can encourage talking about emotions and it can feel like a relief to anyone thinking about suicide. 

Here are suggestions on how you can give support to someone who has thoughts of suicide.

Do something now – don’t wait

The important thing is that you do something, a small effort can make a big difference for a person thinking about suicide. For example, ask the person:  “How are you?”  and show that you really want to know the answer.

Great!

Those who have thoughts of wanting to take their lives are often so preoccupied with those thoughts that the interest in the outside world diminishes. You can make a big difference just by disturbing. By contacting and showing that you care, you can save lives. Do not take for granted that it gets better or goes away by itself. 

Dare to ask 

The only way to find out if someone has thoughts of killing himself is to ask about it. It may feel difficult or uncomfortable, but it is a way to show that you have noticed something and that you have listened. For example, ask: ” How are the thoughts of life and death for you right now?”

It’s okay to not give advice or answer all questions. Sometimes it is enough to get a question from someone who cares and dares to receive the answer. 

Listen and ask open questions

For those who are feeling ill, it can be of great help to tell their feelings and thoughts to someone who is listening. Try to be as calm as possible. Feel free to ask open-ended questions such as ” How do you think?”  and “Can you tell me more?” 

Try to listen without giving good advice. Also, try to endure it sometimes getting quiet. Getting time to think and formulate at your own pace has a value in itself.

Show that you care

Show that you care and that you want to help. While listening and showing compassion, you have the right to be clear that you will not be passive if they go ahead with their plans. 

It is not wrong to include your own feelings in the conversation. A person who feels very badly can become very preoccupied with their own experience, and forget that doing so affects other people. Then it is good to remind you. 

For example, you might say, ” I understand that you are disappointed.” “It sounds very lonely to you when you think like that. I wish you didn’t want to take your life.”

Ask about plans

If anyone is talking about concrete plans to take their lives, it is important to know how long the thoughts have been and how the plans are. Ask questions to find out if the person has devised away, a date or a place for the suicide, or if they have made any special preparations. 

For example, ask: “Do you know how it would go if you took your life? Is there a date when you thought it would happen?”

If concrete suicide plans exist, definitely encourage the person to seek care or ask if you can help by contacting the care or contacting someone else who can help contact the care.

Convey hope and comfort 

As a fellow human, you can try to give hope that it will feel better. Say, for example: “I hear that your feeling is that it will always be this way, but I don’t think so. I know there is help to be had.”

Show that you are a support to return to if the thoughts come back. Confirm the person’s feelings, while at the same time seeing that change is possible.

“I’m sure you can find other alternatives. But then you have to be allowed to continue living.”

Remember, then, that you mean that the person gives himself permission to live.

Talk about other solutions 

Almost everyone with suicidal thoughts has a hard time finding a solution to any problem. In order to feel better, a change is often needed. For example, it may be about doing something that feels difficult or pressing, or changing a situation where the person is feeling unwell. Often there have been many thoughts on how to solve the problem, where suicide has been one. 
If no solutions work, it may feel like suicide is the only solution left. Then you can talk about other solutions to the problem.

Say, for example: “Can we help each other to get at what other options are there? You and I can talk further, or we’ll find someone else who can help” .

Keep no secrets

You may need to ask others for help, and have to tell them that this person is feeling bad. Then it should not mean that you have to betray trust. Therefore, do not promise to keep the plans of suicide secret. You do it to help the person who has thoughts of suicide. You can even promise not to keep this secret, but to tell those who can help.

If you are a child or young person, you need to tell an adult if a friend has thoughts of suicide. For example, say, “Thank you for your confidence. I think it’s so important that you get to live on now. I need to find someone who can help you better than I can. That’s the best thing I can do for you.”

Your friend may get angry. Then keep in mind that what you did was your best option in the situation. You may have saved the life of your friend by telling others.

Encourage the person to seek help

Often, you need to help anyone with suicidal thoughts to seek care. Anyone with suicidal thoughts may need help preparing for the visit. It can also be good to have someone with you during the visit who hears what is being said and can act as support afterward. Offer to follow along if the person wants it.

Say, for example, “You know that those working in healthcare are there to help anyone who has a hard time? You too! Do you want me to come with you? Would you like me to call and ask if we can get there?”

When to seek care?

Often, you need to help those with suicidal thoughts to seek further support in health care. One way to start may be to contact a health care provider who can provide guidance for further assistance.

If the person is feeling very ill and does not want to receive help, forced care may be required. It may be necessary to save lives.

What kind of help and support?

Both for those who have suicidal thoughts and for those who support, it can be a good start to talk to someone in a chat or phone call. Here is someone who listens and can provide advice and support on how to proceed and where you can turn.

You may need to support yourself

Meeting someone who expresses a desire to not want to live is a major challenge, which can also awaken their own feelings of powerlessness, frustration, and resignation.

Supporting someone who has suicidal thoughts can be emotionally heavy. It is important that you think about taking care of yourself, especially if you need to be supportive for a long time. Feel free to talk to friends, close relatives or someone who is professional, if you feel you need it.

You can also contact any patient or related organization. There you can get support from others who have similar experiences.

Suicide zero is a non-profit organization that works nationally to reduce the number of suicides. Another organization that has a lot of knowledge in the field is Mind (the association Mental Health).

Different causes of suicidal thoughts

Often, suicidal thoughts can be associated with depression or strong anxiety. Sometimes, suicidal thoughts can be associated with a personal crisis where the person feels that they have failed, been offended or bullied.

Having a physical illness, pain, or losing a loved one, a relationship or a job can be other causes. Perhaps they have had to leave something, such as their home country or family, and experience a great emptiness or sadness. 

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