If a Loved One Talks of Suicide

Reviewed May 27, 2017

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Summary

  • Listen to what she has to say.
  • Help him find what he needs to work on solving his problems.
  • Do not judge or make demands.

You may have a friend or loved one who reaches a low point in life and wants to die by suicide. Is there anything you can do to help?

Yes, there might be. It’s not an easy path to follow, say psychologists, but intervention by family and friends sometimes turns a person back toward positive thinking.

If you are already close to this person, offer your support. Hold out a helping hand. But, do not be accusatory, and do not talk about your own feelings or problems, says Sue Blauner, a suicide prevention counselor who speaks from experience.

Instead, speak from your heart. Let your friend know how much you care. Tell him you are worried and want him to get help right away.

How to help

Here are suggestions Blauner and several psychologists offer as ways you can help your friend step back from the edge of despair:

  • Accept him without judgment, and listen to what he says
  • Take the threat of suicide seriously
  • Let your friend talk, and talk and talk
  • Don’t ask too many questions or analyze the situation 
  • Validate her experience
  • Stress that the situation is nothing to be ashamed of  
  • Do not offer advice
  • Be positive
  • Point out places where she can get help
  • Offer to enlist support from others
  • Buy time

What to say

Let your loved one talk, but when you speak, say:

  • I am your friend. I love you and care what happens to you.
  • How can I help you?
  • I really want you to get help, right now.
  • I will go with you, if you like.
  • I will check in on you later to see how you are doing.

If this is a serious threat, don’t take no for an answer when it comes to getting outside help. Call a pastor, doctor, suicide line, or take the person to an ER. Or, do all of the above.

During a life-and-death crisis, a person’s mind will be overwhelmed with negative thoughts. Do not expect your friend to engage in rational conversation. He will be too busy dealing with pain. 

People who want to die by suicide do not realize they are affecting others. They are too busy thinking about themselves. If you act like the situation makes you uncomfortable, you may compound the problem.

The person may see no way out of the situation and may be too exhausted, emotionally and physically, to exert any positive energy. You can help by offering the strength she needs. Offer it gently, though, so you do not scare her away.

Be as positive as you can be. “Say, look, there will be times in our friendship when I am going to need your help, so please help me keep our friendship strong by allowing me to help you,” suggests psychologist LeslieBeth Wish. “We are all in differing degrees of social indebtedness to each other.”

Are drugs or alcohol involved? Often suicidal thoughts are tied to impulse, pushed forward by use of mood-altering substances. If you can de-escalate the experience, it may pass and the person might lose the desire to carry through the suicide.

What not to say

Whatever you do, do not say:

  • You will get over it.
  • It is not as bad as you think.
  • Here is what you should do.
  • How could you do something like this?
  • Do you know how much this will hurt your family?

Accept your friend and the situation at face value. You are a lifeline, not a superhero. Do not make demands. 

Remember to take a deep breath if you are nervous. You need to take care of yourself, too, if you are to be able to help your friend.

When you offer help, do not be surprised if he says there is nothing you can do. Do not settle for that answer. Say, no, that is not a good answer.

Dr. Wish recommends saying something like this: “If I were in your situation, this is what I would want from my friends—understanding and acceptance. I would want you to love me for what I am. I would also want you to show you care by keeping in touch with me often, with phone calls, lunches, dinner dates, emails. Can we work on something like that?”

Most of all, do not give up trying. Be prepared to stay with her or in touch with her until she is out of immediate danger, or for as long as it takes.

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Susan Rose Blauner, award-winning author, public speaker, and suicide prevention specialist, Greenfield, M.A.; Kevin Caruso, Founder, Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief of the suicide prevention website, Suicide.org; LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and Co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress, and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Jenni Myers, LCSW, Director, Corporate Strategy, and Dale Seamans, Executive Editor, Thought Leadership, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Listen to what she has to say.
  • Help him find what he needs to work on solving his problems.
  • Do not judge or make demands.

You may have a friend or loved one who reaches a low point in life and wants to die by suicide. Is there anything you can do to help?

Yes, there might be. It’s not an easy path to follow, say psychologists, but intervention by family and friends sometimes turns a person back toward positive thinking.

If you are already close to this person, offer your support. Hold out a helping hand. But, do not be accusatory, and do not talk about your own feelings or problems, says Sue Blauner, a suicide prevention counselor who speaks from experience.

Instead, speak from your heart. Let your friend know how much you care. Tell him you are worried and want him to get help right away.

How to help

Here are suggestions Blauner and several psychologists offer as ways you can help your friend step back from the edge of despair:

  • Accept him without judgment, and listen to what he says
  • Take the threat of suicide seriously
  • Let your friend talk, and talk and talk
  • Don’t ask too many questions or analyze the situation 
  • Validate her experience
  • Stress that the situation is nothing to be ashamed of  
  • Do not offer advice
  • Be positive
  • Point out places where she can get help
  • Offer to enlist support from others
  • Buy time

What to say

Let your loved one talk, but when you speak, say:

  • I am your friend. I love you and care what happens to you.
  • How can I help you?
  • I really want you to get help, right now.
  • I will go with you, if you like.
  • I will check in on you later to see how you are doing.

If this is a serious threat, don’t take no for an answer when it comes to getting outside help. Call a pastor, doctor, suicide line, or take the person to an ER. Or, do all of the above.

During a life-and-death crisis, a person’s mind will be overwhelmed with negative thoughts. Do not expect your friend to engage in rational conversation. He will be too busy dealing with pain. 

People who want to die by suicide do not realize they are affecting others. They are too busy thinking about themselves. If you act like the situation makes you uncomfortable, you may compound the problem.

The person may see no way out of the situation and may be too exhausted, emotionally and physically, to exert any positive energy. You can help by offering the strength she needs. Offer it gently, though, so you do not scare her away.

Be as positive as you can be. “Say, look, there will be times in our friendship when I am going to need your help, so please help me keep our friendship strong by allowing me to help you,” suggests psychologist LeslieBeth Wish. “We are all in differing degrees of social indebtedness to each other.”

Are drugs or alcohol involved? Often suicidal thoughts are tied to impulse, pushed forward by use of mood-altering substances. If you can de-escalate the experience, it may pass and the person might lose the desire to carry through the suicide.

What not to say

Whatever you do, do not say:

  • You will get over it.
  • It is not as bad as you think.
  • Here is what you should do.
  • How could you do something like this?
  • Do you know how much this will hurt your family?

Accept your friend and the situation at face value. You are a lifeline, not a superhero. Do not make demands. 

Remember to take a deep breath if you are nervous. You need to take care of yourself, too, if you are to be able to help your friend.

When you offer help, do not be surprised if he says there is nothing you can do. Do not settle for that answer. Say, no, that is not a good answer.

Dr. Wish recommends saying something like this: “If I were in your situation, this is what I would want from my friends—understanding and acceptance. I would want you to love me for what I am. I would also want you to show you care by keeping in touch with me often, with phone calls, lunches, dinner dates, emails. Can we work on something like that?”

Most of all, do not give up trying. Be prepared to stay with her or in touch with her until she is out of immediate danger, or for as long as it takes.

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Susan Rose Blauner, award-winning author, public speaker, and suicide prevention specialist, Greenfield, M.A.; Kevin Caruso, Founder, Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief of the suicide prevention website, Suicide.org; LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and Co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress, and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Jenni Myers, LCSW, Director, Corporate Strategy, and Dale Seamans, Executive Editor, Thought Leadership, Beacon Health Options

Summary

  • Listen to what she has to say.
  • Help him find what he needs to work on solving his problems.
  • Do not judge or make demands.

You may have a friend or loved one who reaches a low point in life and wants to die by suicide. Is there anything you can do to help?

Yes, there might be. It’s not an easy path to follow, say psychologists, but intervention by family and friends sometimes turns a person back toward positive thinking.

If you are already close to this person, offer your support. Hold out a helping hand. But, do not be accusatory, and do not talk about your own feelings or problems, says Sue Blauner, a suicide prevention counselor who speaks from experience.

Instead, speak from your heart. Let your friend know how much you care. Tell him you are worried and want him to get help right away.

How to help

Here are suggestions Blauner and several psychologists offer as ways you can help your friend step back from the edge of despair:

  • Accept him without judgment, and listen to what he says
  • Take the threat of suicide seriously
  • Let your friend talk, and talk and talk
  • Don’t ask too many questions or analyze the situation 
  • Validate her experience
  • Stress that the situation is nothing to be ashamed of  
  • Do not offer advice
  • Be positive
  • Point out places where she can get help
  • Offer to enlist support from others
  • Buy time

What to say

Let your loved one talk, but when you speak, say:

  • I am your friend. I love you and care what happens to you.
  • How can I help you?
  • I really want you to get help, right now.
  • I will go with you, if you like.
  • I will check in on you later to see how you are doing.

If this is a serious threat, don’t take no for an answer when it comes to getting outside help. Call a pastor, doctor, suicide line, or take the person to an ER. Or, do all of the above.

During a life-and-death crisis, a person’s mind will be overwhelmed with negative thoughts. Do not expect your friend to engage in rational conversation. He will be too busy dealing with pain. 

People who want to die by suicide do not realize they are affecting others. They are too busy thinking about themselves. If you act like the situation makes you uncomfortable, you may compound the problem.

The person may see no way out of the situation and may be too exhausted, emotionally and physically, to exert any positive energy. You can help by offering the strength she needs. Offer it gently, though, so you do not scare her away.

Be as positive as you can be. “Say, look, there will be times in our friendship when I am going to need your help, so please help me keep our friendship strong by allowing me to help you,” suggests psychologist LeslieBeth Wish. “We are all in differing degrees of social indebtedness to each other.”

Are drugs or alcohol involved? Often suicidal thoughts are tied to impulse, pushed forward by use of mood-altering substances. If you can de-escalate the experience, it may pass and the person might lose the desire to carry through the suicide.

What not to say

Whatever you do, do not say:

  • You will get over it.
  • It is not as bad as you think.
  • Here is what you should do.
  • How could you do something like this?
  • Do you know how much this will hurt your family?

Accept your friend and the situation at face value. You are a lifeline, not a superhero. Do not make demands. 

Remember to take a deep breath if you are nervous. You need to take care of yourself, too, if you are to be able to help your friend.

When you offer help, do not be surprised if he says there is nothing you can do. Do not settle for that answer. Say, no, that is not a good answer.

Dr. Wish recommends saying something like this: “If I were in your situation, this is what I would want from my friends—understanding and acceptance. I would want you to love me for what I am. I would also want you to show you care by keeping in touch with me often, with phone calls, lunches, dinner dates, emails. Can we work on something like that?”

Most of all, do not give up trying. Be prepared to stay with her or in touch with her until she is out of immediate danger, or for as long as it takes.

If you or your loved one are in a crisis and need help immediately, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) any time, any day. These 24-hour-a-day suicide prevention lifelines are free services, available to anyone. All calls are confidential.

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Susan Rose Blauner, award-winning author, public speaker, and suicide prevention specialist, Greenfield, M.A.; Kevin Caruso, Founder, Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief of the suicide prevention website, Suicide.org; LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker, and Co-director of The Counseling Network of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Sarasota, FL, which offers free counseling for grief, post-traumatic stress, and family and children needs for military families and veterans; Synopsis of Psychiatry by Benjamin J. Sadock, Virginia A. Sadock and Pedro Ruiz, MD LWW, 11th edition, 2014.
Reviewed by Jenni Myers, LCSW, Director, Corporate Strategy, and Dale Seamans, Executive Editor, Thought Leadership, Beacon Health Options

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