Identifying suicidal thoughts early on is important for prevention and treatment. If you know someone who is struggling with suicide, you may find the below tips useful.
If you feel a friend or a family member is suicidal, ask them directly about it. Talking about suicide is not easy because it may be viewed as a taboo in our society, but you will realize how much it helps the person to just talk about it.
You can bring up the subject by saying something like:
- I have noticed that you’re different lately. I was wondering how you are doing.
- You haven’t seemed yourself lately, I wanted to check on you.
- When did these feelings begin?
- How can I support you right now? How can I be of any help?
- Have you thought about getting help?
- These feelings will change even though you may not believe it now.
- I care about you and want to help you, even though I may not be able to know how you feel.
- When you feel you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, or hour, or minute, whatever you can manage.
Encourage your friend to reach out to Embrace LifeLine.
Any suicidal thought or reference to suicide should be taken seriously. You have to assess how serious the situation is to know how to deal with it. Whether it is sharing a suicidal plan or sharing the darkness of their depression, you need to be pick up on the cues and words that are being shared.
What you can do:
- Be proactive in supporting your loved one. Be there for them, to talk to, to do activities with or anything that brings them peace.
- Don’t wait for them to contact you. Check in on them frequently. If you cannot deal with the situation alone, ask for their permission to get another family member, friend or professional involved.
- Encourage them to seek help, whether a therapist, counsellor, psychiatrist or support group.
- If the situation appears to be more serious, encourage them to seek help through inpatient admission.
- If you think a suicide attempt is highly likely, take the initiative to call their doctor and/or psychologist to get further instructions or take the person to an emergency room.
- Never, under any circumstances, leave someone who is thinking about suicide or attempts suicide, alone.
- Remove any possibly lethal objects (such as guns, drugs, knives, etc.) from their reach to create a safe space.
Follow up, show genuine concern
- Ask them how their treatment and progress is going.
- Make sure they are taking the medications exactly as prescribed by the doctor.
- Ask the doctor about possible side effects of these medications to be aware on how to deal with them, should they arise.
- Inform their doctor if you believe your family member or friend is getting worse.
Put together a safety plan
Having a safety plan will greatly help in the process of recovery. Accordingly, help your family member or friend outline a detailed plan on how to deal with a potential suicidal thought or attempt. The plan should:
- Identify triggers for the thoughts and behaviors that may lead to a suicidal crisis (upcoming painful event, stress from work or personal matters, alcohol abuse etc.)
- Write down action points that they can turn to, to make them feel better until they seek help
- Jot down contact numbers in case of an emergency, such as a doctor, therapist, friend, family member or the Embrace Lifeline: 1564.