Hearing that someone you love is considering suicide is a devastating situation to be in. However, it's crucial that you know how to talk to them in order to help.
You may be caught completely off guard, you may be shocked or perhaps you had seen the warning signs and are relieved that they have opened up to you and are looking for support.
But because a person experiencing this kind of mental health crisis can be unpredictable, you need to assess exactly what they want from you and how much they’re willing to share.
Here are some examples of what you can do if someone you love tells you they are considering suicide:
- Be patient. Don’t force them to talk. They will start when they are ready.
- Have an honest conversation with them. Don’t be afraid to ask if they had a specific method of suicide already in mind.
- Remove any immediate dangers from them. Eg. Knives, large amounts of pills, guns etc.
- Ask them what they want from you. Perhaps you can help them get in touch with a psychiatrist.
- If you are upset, try not to cry or get angry with them for what they were planning to do.
- Do not debate the morality of suicide.
- Express your concern but let them know that they are not alone and there is hope for the future.
Let them know that you are here for them on a daily basis if they need you and keep a compassionate and open mind while you’re talking.
Instead of saying things like, ‘But your life is great, what have you got to be depressed about?’ or ‘Imagine if you were dealing with (insert awful scenario here)?’, try actively listening where you reflect what they have told you back to them or summarise their thoughts so they know you’ve heard and understood them.
When they’re ready, you can remind them that there are professionals out there who are specifically trained to help people in these circumstances.
Learning coping skills through psychotherapy techniques like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be life-changing and hugely beneficial in helping them move on from this tough period in their life.
Suicide is never the answer. Where there is life, there is hope.