Helping Someone Through Their Suicidal Thoughts

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BY|Missi Kenyon View Bio|17th Sep 2019

Suicide is a topic that I speak openly about. The stigma that surrounds suicide creates difficult environment for those who need help. I’m here to show you that no matter who you are or where you come from, it’s okay to be honest about your feelings, especially when those feelings are leading to suicidal thoughts or ideation. 

I’m extremely passionate about this issue because of my own experience from middle school. My parents were going through an extremely difficult divorce, and it felt like it was my fault based on the conversations that were being had. 

Since I’m very emotional, I didn’t second guess that it was all my fault, and frankly it was too much for me to handle on my own. During the divorce I thought about suicide frequently. I thought the world would be better off without me. Luckily, I made it through the hardships associated with my parents divorcing, and am still here today. However, so many others are not. This is why it is so important to recognize why and how we can help.

When you haven’t experienced suicidal thoughts, they can be really hard to understand. In my experience, you’re really in your own head. You feel like you’re a burden, and you think you’re the root cause of the problem. You feel alone. When someone you know is feeling this way, a way to support them is by vocalizing your feelings for them. Saying something like, “Hey, you’re not a burden” can make a huge difference. Let them know that they are not the problem, it’s the external factors around them. Let them know they’re supported and don’t have to do this by themselves. 

In a nutshell, it’s about showing them that it’s not their fault, and helping them fight the voices in their head. 

Currently, I have a friend who is battling really bad depression and suicidal ideation. I’ve been really scared for him. Seeing someone else have to battle the same demons that I was battling years ago, it made me want to talk openly about this issue. 

Here are some things you can do to help a friend who has suicidal thoughts:

Be direct with them.

Say something along the lines of, “Hey, I know you’re struggling. What can I do or what can we do together? Let’s come up with a plan so you stay safe.” Ask them if they’ve started to see a therapist. If they haven’t, ask if they’re comfortable with you assisting them in finding a therapist. 

Listen closely to how they vocalize their feelings.

How are they talking about their life? When emotions pile up, they can lead to suicidal thoughts. It doesn’t have to be “I don’t want to be here anymore.” Often times, it’s more like “I can’t handle this anymore.” Learn how to recognize language that may lead to suicidal ideation and be prepared to act if you feel your friend is not safe.

Make them aware of their resources.

When you’re trying to pick what actions to take, it’s hard to know what resource to use. The main options that come to mind for me are the emergency room, the crisis hotline, or therapy. 

If someone wants to go to therapy before seeking more immediate care but can’t get to a therapist immediately, have back-up resources readily available. Let them know they can call a friend, a family member, or the crisis hotline for anonymous help. 

Let them know they’re not alone.

The biggest thing is, it’s okay to be feeling the way that they’re feeling. Everyone struggles. It’s okay to struggle. Tell them that they don’t have to keep this to themselves or do it on their own. “You have people around you who love you. Don’t force yourself to suffer alone.”