It has been a long time since I’ve written. I’ve not been doing so hot myself but this is something that I feel is really important. Today is just one day of the year on which we focus on preventing suicide. Obviously suicide is actually a year wide problem, however, any conversation is better than none at all. As a society we need to get more comfortable talking about the thoughts and feelings of our friends and loved ones. It can be scary to have suicidal thoughts or know where to start with supporting somebody who is feeling suicidal. I thought that is would be good to share some things that I feel are helpful for supporting others. This comes from what I find personally helpful for me so this is not by any means an exhaustive list.
If you’re worried about somebody – ask!
If you’ve noticed changes in a friend or loved ones behaviour recently there’s absolutely no harm in checking in. You’re not going to put the idea of suicide in to somebody’s mind just by asking if they’re feeling suicidal. Personally, if somebody noticed I’m not doing well it’s a sign to me that they care enough to be paying attention and checking in. You could start the conversation by saying that you’ve noticed changes lately and you wanted to check if they are okay. If you’d like to be more direct you could simply ask somebody directly whether they’re feeling suicidal.
Let them vent
If somebody opens up to you let them vent. Try not to be shocked or judgemental. Suicidal thoughts can be hard to comprehend if you’ve never been in that place yourself but you don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have to fix somebody’s problem. Just offer an ear and really listen.
There are many examples I could write here about the wrong things to say so I’ll just throw a few out and hopefully you’ll understand the kind of thing that I’m talking about.
- But you have so much to live for
- Stay positive
- Others people have it worse
- You’re being selfish/attention seeking
- It’s not that bad
- You need to try harder
If somebody is reaching out to you that’s a big deal. Please don’t be apathetic or doubtful that they’re in danger. So many people reach out or show signs that they’re not doing well.
Ask how you can best support them
They may have some ideas of what they will find helpful. Maybe they have none at all. They may just want to know that they have a friend who is there and willing to be with them through the tough times. You won’t know what they’re going to find most helpful unless you ask.
I don’t mean to be disheartening but it can be a really difficult road to receiving professional support. Between the incessant noise in your mind of trying to get help vs just ending it and not dealing with things and the overburdened system receiving mental health support can be a tough ask. I say this not to be off-putting but to say sometimes some practical support is needed to brave the system. If somebody you know is willing to try to reach out you could offer to go to appointments with them or help them to find more resources that are available.
If you offer to help your friend or loved one either practically or by calling/visiting to check in please make sure to stick to your word! I’m a sensitive person at the best of times but when my head is in a dark place the smallest things can make a big difference to whether my motivation is to stay and fight or give up on life. It can be tricky for people to ask for help or to reach out for a conversation so please check up on your friends without prompting regularly.
In the event that somebody is imminently in danger please call for emergency services in your country. If you are with your loved one try to make the space as safe as it can be. If you’re not with them but you’re on the phone try to keep talking to them until emergency services arrive.
Support for yourself
It can be really difficult to try to support somebody who is struggling so if you’re having a hard time please reach out to your support network or your own GP. As Muir loves to say, “You have to put on your own oxygen mask first before you can help anybody else.”
Well…I’ve probably just rambled away not making much sense for the last 10 minutes. However, it’s an important topic that’s worth me stretching my ever exhausted brain to try and cover. Hopefully there is something useful in here somewhere! I will leave some links below to Samaritans, Mind, our forums and our live chat (discord server) if you need to talk to somebody.