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7 Essential Tips for Helping a Suicidal Loved One

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.

With the rising issue of suicide, I feel compelled to discuss it. I am a suicide attempt survivor and still face the challenges of suicidal ideation. I’ve sought help for my depression and other illnesses, but I still battle my brain on occasion. My physical ailments are a major contributor in this, as they exacerbate my depression. However, I have received phenomenal support that has helped me at my worst. There are a lot of things that help people like me, who feel isolated by their depression. Below is a list of tips.

1. Listen.

I mean genuinely listen, not just superficially. Go beyond “how are you?” and do more than scratch the surface. Chances are, the person desperately wants to voice how they feel, but they also feel like a burden. Without pushing your loved one too hard, let them know you are a safe place for venting.

2. Remind them they are loved and not a burden.

Check in on them, invite them to do things (especially if they’re isolating themselves) and treat them with empathy. When I am deep in depression’s web, I firmly believe I am too much for my loved ones to handle so I isolate myself. When my friends invite me to do things, it reminds me they want me around them.

3. Do not shame someone for feeling suicidal.

Feelings are not something to be ashamed of. It’s how we handle our feelings that dictates who we are. A person who expresses that they feel suicidal should not be guilted or made out to be weak, or a fool, etc. They are coming to you in hopes of help, which takes enormous strength and is extremely hard to do at such a low point. There’s a difference between saying, “How do you think I would feel if you left me?” versus “I’m feeling worried about you, are you OK?” One statement instills a feeling of guilt even deeper into a suicidal person’s mind. The other shows genuine concern and regard for their feelings.

4. Make sure you express your feelings too.

You matter in this scenario as well. It is OK to tell a suicidal person you’re worried about them, etc. The only person you are responsible for is yourself at the end of the day, and leaving your feelings in the dark may lead to resentment. Without ensuring your own foundation is solid, you won’t be able to help someone else support any weight. Practice self-care and urge your loved one to do the same.

5. Encourage the person to seek help.

Battling this is not easy to do alone, and while you can be there for your loved one, they may require professional help as well. There is no shame in therapy, and it is helpful to remind your loved one of that if they are searching for a therapist. Medication and therapy can be used together to combat mental illness and help a person regain their quality of life.

6. Do not hesitate to call for help in a crisis situation.

Your loved one may be upset for a time, possibly even forever, but their safety is first priority. If a person is in crisis mode, enlisting other help is vital to protect both the suicidal person and yourself.

7. Discuss suicide.

It’s a growing health concern. We need to address it and advocate for the people who are dealing with suicidal thoughts. It is a taboo subject, treated as something that should be kept secret, when in all actuality the best way to trigger suicide is to ignore it as an issue. Suicide is preventable. Raising awareness and discussing the things that make people uncomfortable help ease the discomfort of those struggling. Continue fighting for suicide prevention.

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 reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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Photo by Rémi Walle on Unsplash

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