It’s quite the scary position to be in. You’re hearing comments like, “the world would be so much better off without me,” or “it’ll all be different soon,” or even “at least when I’m gone so will my family’s financial problems…”
Depression and Anxiety are like identical twins that were conjoined at birth, but separated by surgery. They’re never far from each other, and most the time it’s extremely difficult to tell which one is which. What makes it harder is watching someone that has both, and trying to figure out which one to address in which situation. And they both sound like they’re hinting at something…something terrible.
You know the outcome if you go about it wrong. That stupid S word. That’s why the fear exists. You know you need to bring it up, but it’s terrifying to admit to yourself, let alone talk about it with the little brother, friend, or boyfriend/girlfriend that you love so much, so you don’t. You tread lightly, hoping not to upset them further, or say something that would damage your relationship if it is misinterpreted.
But we’re here to dispel those fears and those misconceptions. Practice saying this with me out loud.
“Are you feeling Suicidal?”
Repeat it until you have the confidence to say it in person to the one you love. If you can’t say those four words out loud, you might end up finding out just how suicidal they were, only it will be too late.
Suicide Sucks. It’s not just a business name. It’s not just a non-profit logo. It’s an ideation that I wish would spread across the globe.
So you’re still reading this. That means you already agree with the belief that Suicide Sucks. You want to know more.
“How can I help my loved one with his/her suicidal thoughts?”
Real quick before we dive into this just know that our claim to this knowledge comes from real life experience, severe and painful heartache from loss, guilt, grief…followed by hours of training, studying, and learning. Regret has been our most powerful motivator. We do this because we feel the field of suicide prevention needs innovation, improvement, and much, much more love and kindness.
So we’ll start by using lifeguarding techniques as our example. As a lifeguard, or a bystander that happens to see someone drowning, you must follow certain rules in order to be helpful in saving a life, and not cause further damage to yourself, the victim, or others around you.
Step 1: Get Fit
If you’re not strong enough spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically to handle the burdens of another human being then you need to seek out additional support so you don’t drown in the process of saving your loved one. There are always medical professionals, counsellors, church leaders, and family members that are able and willing to step in to support you and the one you’re concerned about.
Step 2: Secure Yourself
Whether you toss in a flotation device from the sidelines, or swim out to meet them face to face, you need to make sure you’re prepared with the tools to keep your loved one safe, as well as yourself. This means getting training and working on your communication skills in regard to suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.
In addition, if you happen to encounter a live suicidal situation there is most likely a weapon or other life taking device nearby. Be aware and be extremely cautious, ready to call 911 at any moment’s notice if the need arises. (This emergency-type situation really requires further discussion and training. Please leave a comment to let’s us know if you’d be interested in receiving more education concerning these types of situations).
Step 3: Be ***Helpfully*** Nosy
Practicing the four words are a start. “Are you feeling suicidal?”
You should also ask sincere and genuine questions into the pain and the source of the frustration that is causing suicidal thoughts. And most importantly you need to listen. Most cases of suicide could be prevented if the ones closest to the individual would just stop what they’re doing, suspend all judgement and fear, and just pay attention to the internal battle that people are raging against the darkness that looms in their minds like the ice cold, shadowy dementors that suck the life and happiness from people.
The key word here is “helpfully.” If you feel like you’re interrogating…then you probably are. If you feel like you’re preaching, then you’re probably speaking too much, and listening too little. If you feel like you’re losing the situation to these suicidal thoughts, which may very well happen, be prepared to ask your loved one if it’s okay that you call in backup. Generally you should be able to ask, “is there someone you trust that we could call to come help make sure you’re going to stay safe for awhile?” If you feel like that should be a parent, friend, or emergency services, follow your instinct, but be careful not to push your agenda on them. Just be sensitive to their needs in the moment.
Step 4: Turning Point
Through your helpful questioning and sincere listening you’ve probably heard comments like, “Mom would be so devasted if I left, but I’m sure she’ll be okay,” or maybe they’ll say something like “sometimes it’s worse than others, but I just can’t escape the pain.” These are indicators of hope, buried by pain. Indicators of motivation that you can encourage and highlight to help them hold onto as a turning point away from their suicidal thoughts.
Perhaps you could say, “I don’t know if Mom would ever get over it. That kind of pain lasts forever. Have you talked to her about these thoughts you’ve been having of suicide? I know she would do anything she can to help you if she only knew how serious the situation is. Do you mind if I call her and invite her over?”
Or maybe it will sound like this, “So what you’re saying is that you have some good days, and some bad days, have you been able to identify what makes a good day?” Their response will most likely indicate something they can hold on to for a turning point.
The key here is your listening skills. Take this quick assesment of your listening abilities.
Q: Do you suspend judgement and ask questions from a sincere desire to know the answer?
Q: Do you ask follow up questions that help the speaker dig deeper and discover hidden truths behind the origin of their pain?
Q: Do you refrain from formulating responses until the person speaking is totally finished venting?
Q: Do you repeat or rephrase what you’ve been told in order to make sure you’re understanding correctly?
Once you feel comfortable with these basic principles of listening, you’ll be much more prepared to communicate with someone about suicide because suicide is never about wanting to leave this earth, it’s about needing to escape the pain that they have been unable to share with anybody.
suicide is never about wanting to leave this earth, it’s about needing to escape the pain that they have been unable to share with anybody.
By the time you’ve identified a turning point that your loved one is willing to use and hold onto, the situation has most likely been de-escalated enough that imminent danger has been avoided.
A word of caution: A turning point must come from the mind of the suicidal. Inception only works four levels down, but it’s extremely easy to be caught as an intruder to original thought.
Translation: You can’t fake your sincerity and give them your hope and expect them to hold on to it for survival. It has to come from within. Unfortunately, it’s not something you can give them. The only way to get to it is via active listening and loving support.
Step 5: Just Love ‘Em
Pulling a victim out of the water and giving CPR takes care of the emergency, but there could be water in the lungs, or brain damage from insufficient oxygen, it’s best to send them to a Doctor for an evaluation and make sure they have attentive care for a good while.
When it comes to suicide, one and done doesn’t exist. Suicide has haunted some individuals for the majority of their lives. There’s always going to be ups and downs, but the point is if you love someone you’re willing to do anything to show that love and support in your actions, not just your words. That’s demonstrated in follow up conversations over the phone, over a text, sending a note, or giving a gift. It’s demonstrated consistently, and continually. People need to know how much value they add to your life.
If you don’t convince people how much they mean to you now, you may end up living a life like mine. A life full of regret and resentment at my past selfish self. Here’s what you do now. Go and Do. Read through the steps. Prepare yourself by considering how much love you have for the people you know that are struggling. Answer this question in regard to that individual, “What limits do I have when it comes to helping my (friend, brother, sister, etc..) deal with their problems?”
Just take it from me…Suicide Sucks.