Talking to a Person Who is Suicidal
A few years ago, a young man brought to me almost succeeded in taking his own life.
Prior to that, he had talked with his friends about it. His mental and emotional mood just worsened with the talks.
There were hurting words he heard: “You shouldn’t feel and think that way,” “Are you crazy?,” and “How selfish of you!”
Surely, people, especially youth or children, respond negatively to those kinds of words. Especially when they come from a loved one, friend, or relative.
Here are basic “keys” to remember when helping or you’re talking to any person who is suicidal:
• Be calm.
• Show empathy - tend to your feelings later somewhere else.
• Help the person self-soothe. Let him or her feel your care and love.
• Talk openly and ask him directly about his/her thoughts/feelings.
• Be non-accusatory or non-judgmental, don’t talk down with your words.
• Listen - even when the suicidal person is not talking.
• Let him or her know he or she is important to you.
• Prod him or her to open up and tell you how you can be of help.
• Prioritize what’s positive and hopeful.
• Encourage him or her not to isolate and be with family and friends.
• Remind him/her not to expect instant results.
• Help him/her find ways and activities to rebuild his/her confidence and self esteem.
• Without minimizing his/her anguish and pain, tell him/her that he/she is not alone and that bad times don’t last forever.
• Recommend a mental health professional he/she can connect with.
• Follow through regularly.
Suicidal individuals don’t mean to die. They are just looking for ways to stop their emotional pain. They’re tired of hurting and feeling no one understands them.
Be careful how you talk to them.