Nearly 80 thousand deaths are reported due to suicide every year. It’s the second leading cause of death for the 15-29 year age group globally.
Several risk factors are involved in such a drastic step. This involves suicidal thoughts or behaviour, previous suicide attempts, harmful use of alcohol, and mental disorders. However, many suicides are impulsive in moments of crisis where the victim’s ability to deal with financial loss, chronic illness and other life’s stresses breaks down.
One of leading cause of suicide is depression. Feeling of depression can range from feeling low to extreme inability to function on a daily basis. Extreme form of depression or major depressive disorder includes pervasive and persistent feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, or guilt. This is a major trigger that can lead to an emotional tunnel — inability to see an alternative.
Hope is a powerful driving force. Life seems to come to a standstill without hope. Helping someone with suicidal thoughts essentially requires restoring their faith and hope!
Not all of us may know how to deal with people having depressive episodes or suicidal thoughts. Here are some things you can AVOID while talking to them:
Asking them to stop being sad: For someone with depression or suicidal, sadness is beyond their control. This is where many people go wrong. Simply telling them to change their emotional state can make them feel more helpless about their condition.
Telling them it’s just a phase: Sometimes suicidal thoughts are taken very lightly or understood as an attention seeking behaviour. Possibly due to media portrayal, it’s quite misunderstood. By telling them “it’s just a phase, it’ll pass” you’re underestimating the potential risk involved.
Trivialising the issue: Everyone has different triggers. For someone it can be loss of job, for someone even a breakup can push them over the edge. The issue may not be as big for you, but it can be catastrophic for others. What they are feeling and thinking is their reality, disputing that can have a damaging impact. Feelings and thoughts like “no one understands me” can crawl in making them feel more isolated.
Finding solutions to their problems: Try not to offer quick solutions. How big they perceive the problem to be and how much they are hurting over it is what counts. Rational arguments do little good to persuade a person when they are in this state of mind.
Let’s look at some helpful approaches for helping someone with suicidal thoughts:
Let them know you’re concerned: Allow them to express their feelings and listen with interest, patience and understanding. Be supportive and non-judgmental while offering hope that there are options available that could be helpful.
Be frank and ask questions: Ask them if they’ve considered suicide, if they have planned how they’d do it. Contrary to popular belief, talking about it does not give them ideas. In fact, it helps you stay aware of the risk and seriousness involved. Talking about suicide to someone who you think may be at risk for suicide can be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary to determine the urgency of the situation.
Keep the surrounding as safe as possible: Being alone and having sources is a huge risk factor. Try to be there with them for as long as possible or check on them regularly. If you’re away or cannot be there, involve other people who are close to the person at risk. Next step is keeping the surroundings safe. Try to remove access to any lethal means of self-harm such as firearms, pills, alcohol, drugs or rope.
Help them to seek professional help: Individuals who are in suicidal crises need to get professional help at the earliest, so it is important that a person is actively encouraged to see a mental health professional. Professional help will help them move towards emotional stability even as they stay safe. You can offer help by looking for suitable professionals, booking appointments, or even going along with them for the appointment.
Know about support groups: Support groups consist of people who share a common problem. By listening and working together, they can help each other heal and grow. You can visit online forums like SANE, where you can read about others’ experiences or write about your own or respond to other postings. Self-disclosure from support groups is powerful as it reminds people that they’re not alone.
Don’t forget about your mental health: While helping someone during a difficult time is virtuous, but you must not forget about your well-being. Being alone in this can be extremely overwhelming for you. If you feel things are going out of your hands, seek help yourself, keep the necessary people in loop. You don’t have to do this all by yourself.
Get yourself educated: Keeping yourself educated about the risk factors and mental illness can help you provide basic help. Keep a few emergency numbers in handy. These days several organisations provide 24 hours hotline or texting service. Look for helpful resources to gain better insights into the nature of the problem.
Being well informed about suicide is crucial in the battle to prevent the needless loss of precious lives. Remember that you don’t need to find an answer, or even to completely understand why they feel the way they do. Listening to what they have to say will at least let them know you care.