who is suicidal
All your efforts to help someone will be met with relief
It is very difficult when someone you care for is Suicidal. You may be confused about what to do next or how to help them. Here are a few things that will support you to help someone who is struggling with suicidality.
Some acute behavioural warning signs to watch out for:
Suffering from severe anxiety and turmoil
Ruminating about the same thing over and over
Unable to sleep or stay asleep
Suffering delusions (false beliefs) of gloom and doom
Suffering from recent alcohol intoxication and over-drinking
Suicide warning signs:
Feeling hopeless or having no purpose
Feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
Talking about being a burden to others
Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
Feeling anxious, agitated, or reckless
Sleeping too little or too much
Withdrawing or isolating themselves
Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
Having extreme mood swings
What YOU can do
Listen carefully without any judgment. Give them your complete attention, acknowledge what they say, validate their feelings and empathize with their current situation.
Show that you care through your words, body language and actions. Let them know that you care about them, what they are going through, and how they are feeling. Offer compassion, empathy, and concern. Start a conversation by asking the following questions:
I noticed you’ve been down lately. Would you like to talk about what's going on/how you’re feeling?
I care about your wellbeing and want you to know I’m here to listen. Is there anything you’d like to talk to me about?
You don’t have to go through this alone. Would you tell me what you’re struggling with at the moment?
How can I help you?
Have you been thinking about ending your life?
Do not belittle what they say and how they feel because it is their reality. Be respectful of the individual and do not make jokes or take what they say lightly.
Acknowledge their pain by reminding them that their feelings of hurt are valid, their life matters and that you are here for them. Reassure them that their life CAN get better!
Be calm to help them carry on. Don’t be alarmed by what they say or do. You need to be the rock that can steady them through their distress. If you need help, reach out to one of their family members or friends or take them to the nearest hospital.
Do not leave them alone until they have calmed down, and can assure you that they will not harm themselves. Ideally, wait till a family member, friend or colleague comes to be with them. Make sure to follow-up after you leave.
Do not offer advice, even if you think you know what’s best. You may not fully understand what they are going through, and you are not professionally equipped to provide solutions.
Do not promise confidentiality, even if they ask you to keep it a secret. Tell them gently, with care and concern, letting them know that you will only talk about this with a family member, friend or mental health professional.
Refer them to a mental health professional to help them feel supported. You could also make an appointment with a mental health professional or provide information on where they can seek help. Follow-up on them to see how they are doing.
Share resources, you can’t always be there for someone who’s distressed. If you know someone who is in immediate risk of attempting suicde then reach out to the following suicide helplines:
Sign up to become a Gatekeeper
Gatekeeper training is a WHO recommended suicide prevention strategy to help those who are emotionally distressed or potentially suicidal. Trained Gatekeepers learn to recognize signs of suicide, provide emotional support, persuade to get help, and refer those with suicidality to mental health support services.
This flyer discusses how can you help someone who refuses professional help
Don’t forget to take care of yourself!
Dealing with someone having suicidal thoughts can be frustrating and emotionally draining. While you care deeply for them, it's equally important that you set boundaries - how are you available to them, when can you be available to help them, and what are your limits due your personal circumstances. Remember to take time off to process the difficult emotions you are vicariously experiencing through them. It’s best to consult a mental health professional to do this in a safe manner.
You are doing your best to help them. It’s not your fault if they don’t feel better. You can help them as far as they are willing to help themselves. Take care of yourself.