At The Gardens, we recognize how loss and grief can have a sustainable cascading effect on the emotional state of individuals. If you are currently depressed or suicidal, please avail yourself of these resources.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues and mental illnesses have reached epidemic proportions in the United States. In 2019, the most recent year for CDC data at the time of writing, 47,511 people died by intentional self-harm — the tenth leading cause of death in the US. Suicide rates have been increasing since 1999 and show no signs of slowing down.
There are many reasons why someone may get to the point where they are considering and attempting suicide, such as the loss of a loved one, deep clinical depression, drug addiction, financial problems, and more. Since 2020, the impacts of the COVID-19 virus, global lockdowns, and systemic isolations have further fueled this serious public health issue.
If you think someone you know may be considering suicide, it’s crucial to have a conversation with them about it — if for nothing more than to remind them that there are people, including you, who love and care for them. This can be an emotionally daunting, scary task, but sometimes all it takes is a reminder that they are not alone, even though their struggle is their own. It’s also important, though, to remember that you are not responsible for someone else’s thoughts or actions and that, ultimately, the decisions they make are theirs.
Steps On How To Help Someone Who Is Suicidal
Here are some tips on how to talk about suicide with someone you’re worried about:
Practice Active Listening
The first and perhaps most important step in how to talk about suicide is simply to listen. This means being fully present and engaged with the person you’re speaking to without judgment or interruption. Allow them to share as much or as little as they want, and try to avoid jumping to conclusions or assumptions about what they’re going through.
Approach the conversation in a calm and collected manner. Remember that this is a sensitive topic and that the person you’re talking to is likely feeling very vulnerable.
Validate Their Feelings
Once they’ve finished speaking, it’s important to validate their feelings. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with everything they’re thinking or feeling, but rather that you understand and respect how they feel at this moment. A simple “I’m so sorry that you’re feeling this way” can go a long way.
Avoid judgemental language, such as saying things like “you shouldn’t be feeling this way” or “it’s not so bad.” Oftentimes, a suicidal person may hear these things and feel like their feelings are invalid or that they’re being told to simply “snap out of it.” This further feeds into a narrative that nobody understands, or that nobody cares.
Ask Direct Questions
If you’re still unsure about how serious the situation is, it’s important to ask questions about suicide ideation and self-harm. Asking things like “Have you been thinking about harming yourself?” or “Do you have a plan for your suicidal thoughts?” can help to give you a better idea of how immediate the threat is.
This may seem frightening, but it’s important to directly address the issue after witnessing any warning signs. Sometimes, this question can force the at-risk individual to put the entire situation into a real-world perspective after days, weeks, or months of ruminating about this permanent decision quietly.
Encourage Them To Seek Help
If someone is suicidal, it’s important to encourage them to seek professional help. This could be in the form of therapy, medication, or both. It’s also important to let them know that there are hotlines available, like the 988 Crisis Lifeline by simply dialing 988, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255), both of which can provide them with additional support, safety plan, and resources in a time of crisis.
Offer Your Support
It’s important to let the person know that you’re there for them. Let them know that you’re concerned about them and that you want to help. In a deep depression, it can be difficult to remember that there are people out there who are willing to offer kindness, compassion, and support through this time.
Your support could mean offering to go with them to therapy appointments or helping them to find a therapist or counselor if they don’t already have one. It could also mean just being there for them to talk to, whether that’s in person or over the phone.
Tips on how to help suicidal teens
Talking to a teen about suicide can be difficult. Here are some tips on how to approach the conversation:
Start by expressing your concern directly. For example, you could say something like, “I’m worried about you because …” Sometimes, teenagers feel like nobody else in the world understands what they are going through. As difficult as it may be, coming out and just saying it can establish a connection and start a level conversation.
Be prepared to listen without judgment. It’s important to let the teen share as much or as little as they want, without interruption. Teenagers are learning all about the world, and it can be a scary transition to go through. They will have synthesized this information in their own way, and it’s essential to just let them share how they feel.
Validate their feelings. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily agree with everything they’re thinking or feeling, but rather that you understand and respect how they feel at this moment. As an adult, it can be difficult to remember how devastating a high school breakup or a failed test is to a teenager, and it can be easy to wave it all away by saying something like, “you won’t even remember this in 10 years.” You can say the same thing about a broken bone, but it still hurts like heck at the moment.
Avoid giving advice or telling them how they should feel. Instead, focus on listening and supporting them. Remember that teenagers spend a lot of time being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it — at a time in their life when they are trying to branch out into the world and explore their own identities. This isn’t the time to preach. It’s time to listen, even if you don’t like what you are hearing.
Encourage them to seek professional help if they are thinking about suicide. This could be in the form of therapy, medication, or both. It’s also important to let them know that there are hotlines available, like the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). Reassure them that they won’t get into trouble for getting help or admitting that they are struggling.
What Not to Discuss When Talking About Suicide
There are some things that you should avoid discussing when talking to someone about suicide. Here are a few examples:
- Don’t talk about suicidal ideation or depression as if they are weaknesses or failures. This will only make the person feel worse about themselves.
- Don’t try to talk them out of how they are feeling. This will make them feel like you don’t understand or respect how they feel.
- Don’t promise to keep everything a secret. This could put you in a difficult position if the person does attempt suicide or hurt themselves in some way.
- Don’t make light of the situation or try to downplay what they are experiencing. This will only invalidate their feelings and make them feel like you don’t understand how serious the situation is.
If you are worried about someone you know, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can contact a suicide hotline, like the 988 Crisis Lifeline or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255). You can also take them to see a mental health professional if they don’t already have one. Remember that you and they are not alone in this, and there is help available.
The Gardens is Boca Raton’s premier cemetery and funeral home. Contact us any time if we can be of service in your time of need.