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How to Help a Friend Who Is Feeling Suicidal

Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

This is a hard post to write. This topic is something really close to my heart, but it’s also something that needs to be talked about. You see, September 10th to September 16th is World Suicide Prevention Week, and according to statistics and research, The World Health Organization estimates that close to 800,000 people die by suicide each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. That is a scary huge number of lives lost each year and a number that needs to be lowered. And one of the way to help lower this number is to bring this subject into light, to talk about it, to break the stigma around it.

From someone who has dealt with suicidal thoughts, I can tell you how hard they are to live with. It takes every power and strength in one person to not act when these lies are constantly in your head. And yes, I know the voice and the thoughts of “it’s easier to just end your life,” or “this is not worth it,” “this is too hard and it hurts too much,” etc. They are all lies and none of it is true. But the thing is, when you’re in that moment, you start believing it and you can’t tell what is truth or lies anymore. It consumes your mind and it just takes over. So I just want to say, if you are struggling at the moment with suicidal thoughts, let me tell you that it does get better; maybe not easier straight away, but you have the strength in you to get through this. You are braver and stronger than you think you are. Please don’t give up. Reach out and let someone know what’s happening. You don’t have to go through this alone. And please please please know you are worth fighting for. Your life matters.

For those who are on the other end of the conversation, where you are listening to someone telling you about their suicidal thoughts, or you sense something is up and you are unsure what to do, here are some thoughts and tips I would like to share with you. I hope they will help you.

1. Please just start a conversation with them. Ask them: “Are you OK and is everything going OK?” Genuinely ask them and don’t accept “I’m OK” or “I’m fine” as an answer if you sense something is wrong. Ask further, try to get them to talk. Also, please make sure you don’t ask when you’re passing by in the corridor or in a group setting. They’re not going to be able to open up and share when there’s no privacy. Instead, pull them aside and get them one on one so they are more comfortable with you. This will help them and allow them to share with you if something is up.

2. Do not make them feel bad for feeling suicidal or having suicidal thoughts. Trust me, they do not want to be feeling like this, so you judging them does not help at all and it actually only makes it worse.

3. Don’t try to fix them. In that moment, they most probably not wanting someone to answer them, but just need someone to listen to them and let them know they’re not alone. So be that person. Be their listening ear, their shoulder to cry on.

4. Please don’t jump to conclusions. Let them fully express their thoughts and don’t bring your perceptions or thoughts into the conversation and where you think they’re at. As the listener, don’t label them or what they’re feeling; instead, allow them to word it themselves.

5. Don’t leave the conversation until they’re feeling better, and both you and the person are assured and believe the person is safe and won’t cause harm to themselves.

These five things have helped me to be where I am today — alive and writing this. So, if you are on the listening end, I hope this helps you to help those in your world.

If you are reading this and you are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts, I hope you know you are not alone in this and your story is not over. There is hope for you.

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, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via MargaretW

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