National Suicide Prevention Week is September 9-15, and every year, this week grows more and more important. With statistics reporting that East Texas has the highest suicide rate in the state, many of us wonder why this startling statistic is on the rise. As of 2017, more than twice as many people in Texas die of suicide than homicide every year. This phenomena is something that none of us can ignore, particularly during such an important week for suicide awareness.
Maybe you know someone who suffers from depression, or maybe one of your family members has expressed thoughts of self-harm. In these situations, many people do not know what to do to help if someone they care about expresses suicidal thoughts. Some people try to change the subject, while others worry about saying the wrong thing, but without knowing how to help, it can be easy to make a mistake.
In light of such a serious health concern, Golden Triangle Emergency Center wants to provide everyone in our community with the basic steps to intervene and help when someone expresses suicidal thoughts. Given that this is such a serious issue, we want to also remind anyone who has considered suicide or who is looking for help regarding depression and suicide to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
Identifying Suicidal Thoughts
Not everyone who is considering suicide will say so directly, but studies show that many people who are considering suicide do make attempts to reach out. There are behavioral changes that might take place, like giving away their possessions, lack of interest in planning for future events, and unusually risky behavior; and there is often an attempt to reach out for help verbally as well.
While a suicidal person might admit very straight forwardly that they have been thinking about suicide, some will also communicate their feelings by saying things like:
- “I feel trapped.”
- “Nothing I do matters.”
- “You’d be better off without me.”
- “Maybe I just won’t be around anymore.”
When communicating feelings of hopelessness, people can use many different words to express how lost they feel. In these moments, friends and family around them may not know how to react. Some might think it is only a phase, others might try to lighten the mood and cheer someone up by changing the subject, and others might try an overly aggressive response. Knowing exactly what to say can be difficult, but psychological professionals do have a recommended list of things to say and ask to help the situation.
The Right Thing to Say
When faced with someone who is expressing a cry for help, many people might react with a blunt declaration of: “But you have so much to live for!” While this gesture is meant well, it is often not helpful to people who are struggling with suicidal thoughts. What is very important to remember for anyone who might be helping a loved one through this difficult time is that a suicidal person feels hopeless. No matter what they might have to look forward to in their life, when someone is considering suicide, they cannot see those things ahead of them. So insisting that they have so much to live for doesn’t help, and can often make those suffering from severe depression feel even worse.
If you have expressed your concern to a loved one who shows signs of severe depression and suicidal thoughts, then the better way to respond is to first and foremost remind them that you are concerned and that they are not alone.
Here are some better ways to express your concern for someone with suicidal thoughts that are more likely to help them feel safe while talking with you:
- “I can see you really struggling, and I want you to know that you’re not alone.”
- “I’m concerned about you, and I want to help. “
- “Thank you for talking with me about this, I really care about you and I want to help.”
The key when talking with anyone about their suicidal feelings is to listen. Those considering suicide are coming from a place of depression and pain and making sure that they are heard and acknowledged is vital to getting them the help they need.
Don’t be Afraid of Questions
It is sometimes assumed that by asking someone if they want to kill themselves, you can somehow inspire them to do it, but that is simply not the case. Anyone who is not suicidal won’t change their mind because you asked them about it. This means that it is okay to ask, if you think that someone close to you might be considering self-harm. Many people who consider it will admit to their intentions when someone approaches them considerately and is willing to listen.
You can even ask them if they have begun to make plans for suicide, such as writing notes or deciding on a method. This can help you to assess how urgent your loved one’s situation might be. If someone has plans in place to commit suicide, then how you react will differ from how you would respond to someone who struggles with depression but is not taking steps to commit suicide.
How to Respond
No matter if someone is having suicidal thoughts or has begun to actually plan for their suicide, the most important thing you can do is to stay with them. It is very important not to leave a suicidal person alone, especially overnight. After talking with them about how they feel and your willingness to help, it is important to stay by their side and help them get professional medical help.
If the person you are helping already sees a therapist or has a doctor they have talked with about their depression before, then offer to help them make an appointment. You can even offer to go with them to their next appointment.
For anyone who does not see a medical professional for their depression, it can be especially good to help them get to their first appointment. Go with them, to make sure they attend, and if your loved one needs you in the session with them, then you can talk with the doctor or counselor about accommodating that.
If the situation is urgent and you think that your loved one is at immediate risk for a suicide attempt, then stay with them and call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There, you will be connected to resources near you and be given professional guidance on how to manage the situation and keep your loved one safe.
As we remember the losses that have come from suicide, Golden Triangle Emergency Center wants to education and provide our community with the tools to support those suffering from depression. By listening thoughtfully, communicating honestly, and helping someone to make an appointment, we can all learn not only how to help someone with suicidal thoughts, but also how to be more compassionate to those we love.
Golden Triangle Emergency Center supports everyone in our communities, and we urge anyone who is suffering from suicidal thoughts to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and get help today. If you are considering suicide, reach out to someone you trust and ask for their help in making you an appointment with a mental health professional.
Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on Golden Triangle Emergency Center or any one of our concierge-level, freestanding emergency facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.