This article is not a substitute for professional help, but here are some general guidelines on how to help someone who is suicidal. It's crucial to remember that if you believe someone is in immediate danger, you should contact emergency services or a mental health crisis hotline right away (988). Here are some steps you can take to provide support:
- Take It Seriously: If someone confides in you about their suicidal thoughts, take it seriously. Even if you're unsure about the seriousness of their situation, it's better to err on the side of caution.
- Listen Actively: Be a compassionate and non-judgmental listener. Allow the person to express their feelings and thoughts without interruption. Avoid offering immediate solutions or dismissing their feelings.
- Stay Calm: Your own emotional response matters. Try to remain calm and composed, even if the situation is distressing. Your calmness can have a positive influence on the person in crisis.
- Ask Directly: If the person hasn't already mentioned it, ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide. This can open up the conversation and let them know you're willing to talk about it.
- Encourage Professional Help: Suggest that they seek professional help from a therapist, counselor, or psychiatrist. Offer to help them find a mental health professional or accompany them to appointments if they're comfortable with it.
- Remove Access to Means: If possible, help the person create a safe environment by removing access to any means they might use for self-harm or suicide, such as medications, weapons, or other dangerous objects.
- Stay with Them: If you believe the person is at immediate risk, do not leave them alone. Stay with them or ensure someone else stays with them until professional help arrives.
- Contact a Crisis Helpline: Encourage them to call a crisis helpline or offer to call one with them. In the United States, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.
- Reach Out to Supportive Contacts: Encourage the person to talk to trusted friends or family members who may be able to provide additional support.
- Follow Up: Keep in touch with the person and continue to offer support after the initial crisis. Suicidal thoughts can persist, so ongoing support is essential.
- Educate Yourself: Learn more about suicide and mental health issues so you can better understand what the person is going through and provide informed support.
Remember that while you can offer support and encouragement, you are not a substitute for professional help. Encourage the person to seek help from mental health experts who are trained to deal with suicidal thoughts and provide appropriate treatment. Your role is to be there for them, offer empathy, and help them connect with the necessary resources.