This post is designed to help us all become more aware of suicide and how we can do our bit to prevent it. If you are currently experiencing suicidal thoughts you can receive help and support through the following networks:
Suicide. It’s such a difficult thing to talk about. We might be used to seeing the word on twitter, hearing it on the news and talking about it when we mention popular TV shows but it’s a completely different thing when someone we know turns around and says: “I’m feeling suicidal.”
What can we say? Immediately we might panic, we might even feel angry towards that person. We might have lots of questions for them about why they feel how they feel and we might want to make them promise not to hurt themselves. These feelings are understandable, but they’re actually about us rather than about the person in trouble. What they need us to do is often very different from what we want to do. So what can we do? How do we know what the right thing to say is? Here are some suggestions:
Tell them “thank you”.
This person has taken a brave step: they have revealed their feelings to us. We need to honour that because it will encourage them to trust us and open up to us about other things in their lives.
Let them know you are listening.
This might be as simple as you saying “I hear you,” or “I’m listening,” or you might just need to keep quiet and let them speak.
Try and help them understand their feelings.
Maybe ask them some of these questions:
- When did you start feeling this way?
- Do you remember if something started these feelings, or did you notice a time it got worse?
- Do you want to tell me if you have a plan to hurt yourself?
- Do you want to talk to me about a time when you have recently felt these feelings?
Encourage them to seek support.
You might have been the only person they have told, but this doesn’t mean that you are the only one who can support them. Part of being a good friend is knowing your own limitations, and often a person who is experiencing suicidal thoughts needs help that we might be able to provide. Try directing them to some of the services listed below, or suggest they meet with their GP.
Offer support that you feel comfortable giving.
When someone tells us they are feeling this way, we can suddenly feel responsible for making sure they are safe every minute of every day. However, that isn’t good for us or good for them. So instead, offer practical support that you know you can give without being overwhelmed. Maybe you can send them regular texts, or agree to meet them once a week for coffee.
Help them think of ideas for self-care.
Often what a person who is struggling with suicidal thoughts needs is a self-care plan. This is plan that they can use whenever their thoughts become overwhelming, and you can help them make it! Mind has some really great suggestions of how to do this here:
Tell them how you value them.
Our instinct when we hear someone is feeling suicidal is sometimes to tell them to think about all the good they have in their life. For example, we might say “but think about your amazing family, and everything you have!” The sad truth is that when suicidal feelings take over, thinking about these things do not always make a suicidal person feel hopeful. Instead, being reminded of these things can make them feel even worse. Be clear that you are very grateful they have told you the truth, and that they are very important to you. This might not make them feel better immediately, but hopefully they will remember it next time they feel low.
Make space for you to think and reflect.
Supporting someone who is struggling can have an impact on your own mental health. Very often this goes unchecked because we feel like we shouldn’t be feeling so bad – after all, our friend feels so much worse! What we need to do is be honest with ourselves: our friend’s feelings have an impact on us and we might need a bit of support to cope. Check out the following websites for some support.
Remember: if you or someone you love is struggling, you are NOT alone.
About the Author: Emma Hinds
Emma is a writer living and working in Manchester. She is a mental health advocate and has been blogging about mental health for the last ten years. Emma has a history of veating disorders and is currently living with a diagnosis of OCD and chronic depression. She has been working specifically with young people struggling with their mental health for the last four years and is now supporting the Lily Jo Project’s On Track follow up schools programs. You can see Emma’s work and follow her mental health blog here. You can also follow her on socials here: twitter@EmmaLouisePH and instagram@elphreads.