Suicide is a complicated issue, but it can be prevented.
With the recent deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, suicide has become a hot button issue in social media. 1.4% of all deaths globally are a result of suicide, and that number is only rising, especially in the United States where the budget for mental healthcare has an uncertain and shaky future. Contrary to popular belief, suicide isn’t relegated to depressed teenagers, or the mentally ill. The fact that two extremely successful, seemingly happy people like Spade and Bourdain took their own lives has started a new dialogue about what it means to be depressed, and what causes a person to commit suicide.
I think it’s a great time for us all to take inventory of our own lives, and give some thought as to whether there is anyone in our lives that may need a helping hand. Suicidal people may not cry out for help, but that is even more reason to reach out and show some concern. In most cases suicidal people don’t actually want to die, but death is preferable to the continuation of suffering. And sometimes suffering can be alleviated by something as simple as a phone call. So here are some tips regarding what to do if you feel someone you care about may be depressed, or considering suicide.
Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide and bring it up. Even though you may think a suicidal person won’t want to talk about it, discussing it openly in conversation may normalize the feelings your loved one is having, and validate their pain. This can open up the conversation to other options. You can say things like: ‘You haven’t seemed like yourself lately, so I wanted to check in’, ‘I’ve noticed some changes in you, and want to make sure everything is all right’, or simply, ‘I’ve been concerned for you lately.’
Don’t believe that people who talk about suicide won’t go through with it. Most of the people who commit suicide give some kind of warning or cry for help. So don’t assume that because someone talks about it, they won’t follow through with it.
Ask questions. Sometimes a suicidal person just really wants to be heard and validated. So don’t be afraid to ask questions like: ‘What can I do to support you right now?’, ‘When did you start feeling this way?’, or ‘Have you thought about seeking out help?’
Don’t be overly concerned about saying all the right things. Just being an open ear and mind will help more than you know. A suicidal person is likely to be full of raw emotion, so just focus on being a sounding board and offering kind words.
Listen. The most important thing you can do for a suicidal person is just listen.
Take the person seriously. Allow them to say whatever they need to say without judgment. Don’t offer them confidentiality however, because you may need to reach out to a mental health professional on their behalf.
Don’t argue with them, try and fix their problems, or take on responsibility for their life. At the end of the day the best thing you can do is just let them know that they are loved, and offer them some hope.