HOW TO HELP A FRIEND OR LOVED ONE EXPERIENCING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS

Published: September 5, 2018

By: Elizabeth Boyle, Crisis Line Intervention Specialist


Suicide is a terrifying subject that is often taken out of conversation because it can make almost anyone feel uncomfortable. NAMI reports that the stigma of suicide harms 1 in 5 Americans affected by Mental Health Conditions and can prevent those experiencing suicidal thoughts to not reach out for help. It chases those who’ve attempted suicide and those who have lost loved ones.

Our goal at Families First is to eliminate the stigma surrounding suicide by starting difficult conversations and raising awareness. We provide training and support so that loved ones are able to recognize the signs of a person struggling with suicidal thoughts and know what to say or do when they sense something is wrong.

If you're concerned about someone, the Americal Association of Suicidology (AAS) advises to look for the following signs:

• Increased substance use (alcohol or drugs)

• Feeling there is no reason for living or no sense of purpose in life

• Anxiety, agitation, lack of sleep or sleeping all of the time

• Feeling trapped - like there's no way out

• Hopelessness

• Withdrawal from friends, family and society

• Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge

• Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking

• Dramatic mood changes

If you see any of these signs from someone, reach out and offer your support. Start the conversation with a caring approach and use these conversational guidelines from AAS:

• Ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.

• Be direct- Talk openly and freely about suicide.

• Be willing to listen. Allow for expression of feelings. Accept the feelings.

• Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.

• Don’t give advice by making decisions for someone else.

• Don’t ask ‘why’. This encourages defensiveness.

• Offer empathy, not sympathy.

• Don’t act shocked-this creates distance.

• Don’t be sworn to secrecy-seek support.

• Offer hope that alternatives are available, do not offer glib reassurance; this makes it seem that you don’t understand.

• Take action and remove any means. Get help from individuals or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.

No one should have to feel completely alone when facing a crisis. Families First 24-hour crisis line is there for people who are in crisis or contemplating suicide. Crisis Intervention Specialists are available 24 hours a day to provide support for any problem you may be facing. Call or text now to speak with someone. We want you to know you're not alone, and we can help you get through whatever it is you're facing.

To learn what the Crisis Line at Families First does and what to expect if you were to call, watch this video.

Call (317) 251-7575 or Text CSIS to 839863.