September 9ththrough the 15this officially National Suicide Prevention Week. With Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day falling earlier this week, on the 10th, we figured there’s no better time to discuss this tough topic. Broaching the subject of suicide is difficult, even in the closest of relationships. But when your friend, family member, or loved one brings it up, don’t brush it off. How you handle the situation can make a big impact on someone struggling with mental illness. These guidelines should help you navigate this difficult time, but don’t be afraid to reach out for help! For you and for them.
While there’s no real way to practice for a situation like this, you can ready yourself by staying educated. The more you know about depression and suicide, the more aware you can be aware of potential warning signs within your own social circle. If you notice a friend behaving increasing self-destructive, withdrawing from friends or activities they previously enjoyed, displaying hopelessness, and/or fixating on death, you may want to initiate a conversation.
Know where to go for help, so you or someone you know can access care immediately, as needed. Here’s a great list of general suicide prevention resources. Even if you never need to use these yourself, you can do your part just by spreading awareness. Sometimes, it only takes one small action by someone who cares to make a difference.
It sounds so simple, but it can difficult to hear your best friend, brother, boyfriend, etc. talk openly about suicide. Still, if you can be there for them to honestly discuss their issues, they may not feel so alone. You don’t have to be a qualified professional or offer expert advice in this situation. Sometimes just listening as they unburden themselves of some of their struggles is enough. Try to remain calm in this situation and accept their acknowledgement without judgment. If you respond with anger, disgust, or cliched recommendations, they may become more resolute about their efforts. After all, usually suicide is a cry for help. Don’t turn it away.
Encourage Them to Get Help
While you don’t have to use these exact words, if someone you know is actively contemplating suicide, he/she won’t get better without professional assistance. That means different things for different people, but a depression that serious doesn’t just go away on its own. As part of your encouragement, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Have they told anyone else about their problems? Have they ever worked with a mental health professional before? How long have they been feeling this way? What’s holding them back from seeking help?
Try to make it sounds more like a conversation and less like an interrogation by allowing them time to answer and elaborate. Be willing to accept their answers, as well, even as you offer to help them find local resources. Many times, individuals are afraid of the stigma that they believe comes with a mental illness diagnosis and treatment plan. So, if you let them know those closest to them won’t judge them for their decision to get professional help, it could prompt them to make that call. Don’t stop once they’ve made that first appointment, either! Encourage them to keep contact and follow through with their schedule, so they’re truly getting the assistance they need.
At The Family Center, we deal with a wide variety of mental health issues, including depression and suicidal tendencies. So, consider us a resource for individuals of all ages throughout Howard, Carroll, and Anne Arundel Counties in Maryland. Please contact us or another professional helpline if you need assistance with suicide prevention! Remember, when it comes to mental health, even one person can make a difference.