How to talk to someone who is thinking of Suicide?
Updated: Mar 30, 2021
Ms. Janani Vasanth, Clinical Psychologist, Unified Brain Health Care
We hear of people who have died by suicide and immediately wonder what would have gone through their mind just before they died. What could have been said to them that would have changed their mind or prevented them from taking that extreme step?
If you noticed that someone is feeling suicidal, what do you do? How do you start a conversation with them? Isn't it easier to ignore and pretend you noticed nothing and hope that it was just a passing thought?
It is popular belief that talking about suicide pushes a person to think about it or attempt it. This is not true. Talking about it, actually does the opposite. It opens up channels of communication that can help us understand their situation and help them share their emotional trauma. A simple “Is everything okay with you?” or “You look upset. Do you want to talk about it?” can help initiate a conversation.
Pay attention and listen:
Don’t say things like “How can you get upset about this?” or “I thought you were stronger than this!”. Do not trivialize the matter at hand. You may not know what to say or even be afraid that what you say will only make things worse but you can ask them directly what you can do to help them. Pay attention to their emotions, and show them that you care, without any judgement.
Develop a safety plan or contract:
As the name suggests, this is a contract between two people where they agree not to harm themselves before reaching out to the other. It has a set of defined actions each person has to take in case of a crisis situation and how they should respond. Helping someone through this is not easy and it is not a single-person task. Make sure that you bring others who care about this person into the loop and that you are also taking care of yourself.
Seek Professional Help:
Most importantly, encourage the person to seek the help they require from a Qualified Mental Health Professional. Now, Psychiatrists and Clinical Psychologists have started offering their services online or even over the phone. There are suicide helplines. If the person is hesitant to take this step, it may be due to a number of reasons such as judgement from others or societal pressures and worries about their social or self-image.
You can support the person by normalizing seeking therapy. Qualified Mental Health Professionals value the confidentiality of their clients. Reassure the person that their social image will not be tarnished by seeking therapy.
Identify good resources for them and help them make use of the resources.
Make sure you follow-up on them to see how they are doing and to show that you care. Find out if they have been getting the professional help they need. If they haven't taken the step to seek help, encourage them further.
Having suicidal thoughts does not make a person weak, it simply means that the community needs to get stronger in supporting each other.
Contact our clinical psychologists if you are concerned about someone's well-being or if you have been feeling low and having suicidal thoughts.
Unified Brain Health Care is one of a kind Neuro Rehabilitation Centre in Chennai for adults and children offering in person and online therapy in Cognitive Rehabilitation, Clinical Psychology, Speech Therapy, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Clinical Nutrition, Career Counselling, Fitness Coaching and Educational Intervention. We also offer support for PCOS management, Pregnancy Care, Post-Pregnancy care for New Moms, Infant and Early Childhood Stimulation, Caregivers and promoting Holistic Brain Health.