11 Things My Friends Can Do When I'm Feeling Suicidal

My dual diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar I disorder means I am no stranger to having suicidal thoughts and ideations. The intensity of these thoughts have brought me to the ER, required both voluntary and involuntary hospitalizations and have impacted my daily functioning. With bipolar and BPD, especially in the early stages of diagnosis and recovery, my thoughts were often dark. My self-worth was non-existent. I saw myself as useless and unworthy.

I am trying hard to be better, healthier, stronger. I have an amazing support system both socially and professionally, and I have a helpful medication regime. I trust my therapist and see him often. I am learning self-care and am developing a sense of identity. I joined a gym.

But another part of my goal to be well means strengthening relationships and creating meaningful interactions.  What happens, though, when I become suicidal? How do I manage those thoughts and keep myself safe? My response is always to tell someone I trust. But sometimes, it can be hard for friends to be hit with an, “I’m suicidal” text or phone call, especially if they don’t know how to react. It’s important to reach out to supports during low points, but also I’ve realized it’s important for me to verbalize what I need from friends when I do experience suicidal thoughts.

Thus, I created a list of what is helpful for me when I am feeling suicidal and gave a copy to each person in my support system. This gives them confidence in handling the situation and furthermore, I am getting what I need.

I decided to share a few things from the list with The Mighty community, hopefully to aid a friend, family member or anybody helping a person through their suicidal thoughts or really bad, depressive days.

1.  Assure me my feelings are temporary. They have passed in the past and they will pass again. Remind me of my support network — the people who care. Remind me I am not a burden.
2.  Make a joke.
3.  Ask me to tell a funny or happy story.
4.  Ask me if I took my medication recently, and if I need an emergency pills.
5.  Am I in physical pain? (I have physical health co-morbidities)
6.  Who are my safe people and safe places? Have me name them.
7.  Play my calming music. (For me, this is worship music, but it can be different for everyone!)
8.  Tell me what you are passionate about and teach me something new. I love learning and growing my mind.
9.  Remind me I am not the first person to have these thoughts. People have overcome them and so will I!
10.  Ask if I want a piece of paper to scribble out my frustrations on.
11.  Listen. Believe my pain to be real.

This is far from an exhaustive list and is personal to what helps me. I encourage you, if you experience frequent suicidal thoughts, to come up with your own list. And I encourage you, if you are a friend of someone who struggles with these thoughts, to ask what you can do in a situation to be most helpful.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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