I’ve been thinking some time to write a post about dealing with suicidal thoughts. In this post I will offer suggestions on what to do if someone in your life is suicidal or has struggled with these thoughts.
1. Listen and be present with them. Try to listen with a goal of understanding and suppress the urge to panic, fix them, or tell them that they are wrong to think/feel that way.
2. Once they have finished sharing, clarify what they need from you (ie their purpose/hope in telling you) and come up with a plan to support them if you can, or perhaps identify another individual who can perform this role (ie keep them “safe”). Therapy and professional help is also a strong option to recommend. The fact that they are sharing this information with you is a fair indicator that they actually don’t want to die. Sometimes the person with suicidal thoughts can be calmed by putting their worries/problems in broader perspective or getting assistance with easing their stressors.
3. After the conversation moment has passed, feel free to be loving towards them, talk about normal life things etc. If appropriate, you can acknowledge the effort it took to share, and ask what else you could talk about/do.While it would be a good idea to ask how they are doing with the suicidal thoughts from time to time, it is also good to engage in friendly conversation.
The state licensing board requires psychologists and other trained mental health professionals to complete coursework specifically addressing treatment of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in order to keep an active license to practice. I think that this is a great idea as it makes competent professional care more accessible and de-stigmatizes the experience for persons with these thoughts who live each day with the wish that they weren’t alive. Not everyone who has suicidal thoughts needs to be hospitalized- however it is a very good idea to seek professional help to understand the triggers to these thoughts and find alternative ways for decision making and problem solving before it is “too late.”
If you or someone you care about is experiencing suicidal thoughts but not planning to do anything, you can contact me to inquire of counseling services. If more urgent care is needed, please go to the hospital or other emergency services. For general information on the study of suicidal behaviors, you can visit the resources page at the American Association of Suicidology. <3 Be well !
All blog posts from Dr. Soo Hoo are provided for educational and informational purposes only. As Dr. Soo Hoo is a licensed clinical and health psychologist, we must make it clear that nothing on the blog is intended to constitute medical or psychological advice, consultation, recommendation, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are concerned about your health, please seek appropriate care in your area.