All of us feel the pressure and stress when faced by challenging times. However, some of us may find ways to cope with the stress while others may feel overwhelmed to the degree that they think of hurting themselves or committing suicide. Unfortunately, suicide is among the leading cause of death in the U.S. and the pandemic has aggravated the situation. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), 2018 recorded approximately 1.4 million suicide attempts and more than 48,000 suicides.
Suicide ideation is more often than not a response to demanding situations like abuse, loneliness, mental health disorders, trauma, and isolation. Though not everybody who thinks about suicide may make an attempt on their lives, the situation becomes scary when you realize that your friend is thinking about it. In such a scenario, you want to help a friend, but have no idea how to do it. Here are some ways that you can use to offer support to a suicidal friend.
Recognize the danger: Suicide is a preventable health crisis. If you find your friend using terms like “this world would be a better place without me”, “I wish I could just disappear”, “I can’t stand myself anymore” or something similar, be alert. Remember that suicidal thoughts would be frightening for your friend also. They might not use the word “suicide” and they might not have a fixed timeline or a plan to do so, but they are vulnerable and need your support.
Acknowledge their pain: A person indulges in suicidal ideation when they are in pain and want the suffering to end, but are unable to think of a way to do it.If your friend is talking about their pain, do not brush them off. Undermining their feelings would invalidate their misery. The reason why they are talking to you is because they are not comfortable seeking suicide prevention help. If you also give them a cold shoulder, it would reaffirm their belief that it is impossible to overcome their distress.
Notice their behavior: Certain behavior is a sure sign that your friend is feeling devastated. This could include avoiding people, frequent mood swings, changed eating or sleeping patterns, impulsive or reckless behavior, giving away personal treasures, increased substance abuse, etc. Indulging in such behavior does not mean that your friend will commit suicide or is thinking of suicide, but you need to be careful and focus a little more on them.
Talk to them: Encourage your friend to talk about what is causing them the pain. Brainstorm with them to help overcome the situation. Talking about things they love may brighten their mood and distract them from their worrying thoughts. Also, broach the subject of suicide delicately. Experts say that talking about one’s plan actually provides them relief as most people ideating suicide do not have a clear timeline or plan to execute. However, if you discover that they have a well-thought plan and timeline, then they need immediate help.
Be emphatic: Validate your friend’s pain by accepting that they be feeling crushed. Re-assure them that times change and what might be looking like a bleak situation right now will become better. Tell them that you care and would like to help them. Check on them continuously and tell them that you are thinking about them.
Encourage them to seek professional support: While you cannot force your friend to seek therapeutic care, you can gently nudge them and remind them that professional support is available. Remember that their suicide ideation may be a result of an underlying mental disorder. Tell them that you would be willing to help them book an appointment with a professional and accompanying them to the therapist. This will give them the confidence to seek professional support.
If you notice that your friend needs credible mental health support, get in touch with Colorado Mental Health Help. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-899-5063 and speak to our trained mental health therapist. They can guide you with information about our evidence based mental health treatment programs customizable to suit your friend’s need. Alternatively, you can chat online with our mental health treatment expert for further guidance.