Suicide is a problem, so much that the rates have been rising. Researchers aren’t too sure why more people are taking their lives, but it is becoming a detrimental issue nonetheless. Knowing how to start a dialogue with your loved ones and what to say could help diminish the numbers. It’s a hard and heartbreaking conversation to have, but one that needs to be had.
Why Should We Talk About Suicide
Does talking about suicide make you uncomfortable? Did you lose someone to suicide, making you resentful toward anyone who gives it a thought? Or do you just not know what to say and you are afraid if you say the wrong thing it could make it worse? Regardless of the reasons you may resist these types of conversations, avoiding talking about suicide can make problems even worse than they are.
There is a difference between glorifying and normalizing a symptom of poor mental health like suicide. When you glorify suicide, you make it seem romantic and appealing. Making it seem like it is a valid option to take care of a problem is not the way to go about it. But normalizing the conversation, by not making a big deal about it but letting it be okay to talk about, can help people come out with their problems so they can be addressed.
If suicide continues to be a taboo subject to talk about, people who are afraid to come forward may continue to keep their feelings to themselves. This can cause their ideation to manifest, turning into actions.
Making suicide hard to talk about makes people feel ashamed for having these feelings. Calling them cowards or weak can make them withdraw from the world around them making their negative feelings about themselves even stronger.
When people are allowed to talk about suicide without someone giving them the stink eye, others who have been hiding their thoughts will see that they aren’t alone. They can see someone who triumphed through their turmoil meaning that they can do it, too.
If you’re ready to be a part of the solution to helping people overcome the desire to end their own life, there are a few warning signs to look out for. Not everyone will walk up to you and tell you that they want to kill themselves. Sometimes it's subtle, but it doesn’t make it any less severe.
Warning Signs Of Suicidal Ideation
When someone doesn’t care whether they live or die, it will show in their actions. This includes drug abuse, unprotected sex, walking around at night in a shady neighborhood, not looking before crossing the street, and even refusing to wear a seatbelt.
They don’t always say they want to kill themselves. They could say things like they are a burden to everyone, things would be better if they didn’t exist, they don’t care if they die, or saying they feel like in a nightmare and they just want to wake up.
Someone who may be thinking about ending their life has a lot on their plate right now. Not only all of the normal and everyday stressors but fighting to stay alive another day. This stress can cause mood swings and bits of rage.
Choosing isolation over population is a sign of depression which can lead to suicide. If they are left to be alone in their head all day with no one to help them think with reason and rationality, they may end up taking matters into their own hands. Feeling alone and unloved can also lead them to believe that they are better off not on this planet, even if they are choosing to be alone themselves.
If someone was having mood swings, expressing severe depression, or any other types of mood-related symptoms and they are now calm as a pond on a stagnant day, they may have already made their decision. They may have decided that they will take their life, making nothing bother them anymore because their solution is in sight.
Some people will come flat out and talk about how they want to take their life. This should always be taken seriously. Even if you think it is “just a cry for help.” Which it might be, which is why you should take these threats so seriously.
What To Do When You Notice Suicidal Behavior
If you notice anyone with these signs, try to get them to talk to you in private. Whether it’s through text message or in the back of the office, give them your undivided attention in a way that others can’t listen in who may make your loved one uncomfortable. Ask them if they are okay, explain how they haven’t been themselves lately. They may be wandering around this planet just waiting for someone to care.
If they do open to you, be sympathetic. If they have opened up to you, they are trusting you with sensitive information and feel safe confiding in you. If they shrug it off and tell you everything is okay, just let them know that you are here for them if they ever want to talk.
After they have opened up about their feelings, ask them if they are having thoughts of suicide or hurting themselves. Try to be as empathetic as possible, so they don’t fear to tell the truth. If they are feeling suicidal, encourage them to see a mental health professional. Of course, you being a good friend or family member can help a lot, but there are people who go to school to learn exactly how to handle these situations.
Ways You Shouldn’t Respond To Someone Who Is Talking About Suicide
It’s essential that if your loved one is talking about suicide, that you listen. If they have trusted you enough to come to you with this information, you shouldn’t abuse it. You may think that what you say doesn’t matter, but words do matter. If you find that you are inclined to say any of these responses, there are other ways you can respond to your loved ones.
“How could you do that to me?”
Guilting someone into staying alive isn’t the best way to go. They likely already feel like garbage and you adding this pressure doesn’t help. And if you get into a fight, one of the things that might cross their mind is using suicide to hurt you.
“That’s so selfish.”
This is still trying to use guilt toward someone who regularly feels that emotion every day. They aren’t being selfish when the only thing they are trying to do is escape the monsters that loom over their bed at night as they feel that they are useless and a burden to the world. Bringing them down is only going to make them believe that they were right.
“Your problems aren’t that bad.”
You might think you have a good idea of what their problems are, but you might not. This kind of conversation can make them feel ostracized and that no one understands how they feel. This could make them isolate themselves even more and not want to talk about how they feel making their problems even worse. Diminishing someone's pain doesn’t make the pain go away.
“That’s a coward’s way out.”
Most people are scared of death, so this doesn’t even make sense. They aren’t courageous for suicide, either, bravery has nothing to do with it. Using this type of language is using guilt and shame which is negative reinforcement. A kind of reinforcement that usually doesn’t work on people who are hurting so terribly inside.
“You don’t really want to die.”
Telling someone that their reaction to their problems is fake isn’t going to make the situation better. Being dismissive can be the proof they need that people don’t care whether they live or die. Brushing off someone's plea for help will only make things worse.
“Things could be worse.”
People are always saying things could be worse when someone complains about something. With this type of logic, only one human in the entire world is allowed to complain about their problems because everyone has it better than them. And this type of language isn’t encouraging.
Things To Say Instead
“I’m heartbroken you feel this way.”
If you need to make the conversation about you, at least make them the star of the show. Yes, you want to express how sad you would be if they decided to take their life, but this isn’t about you. This is about how they feel. Sympathizing with them and expressing how their hurt hurts you can help them feel less alone.
“How can we change how you feel?”
This is validating how they feel and letting them know that you aren’t thinking they are a terrible person for allowing this thought cross their mind. This can also help them think of ways to help change their situation making their life less painful whether it is talking to a counselor, taking medication, or making changes in their life.
“Things will get better.”
This is encouraging language that can help them realize that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If a loved one dies and it is causing them to feel such severe pain they don’t feel like they can take it any longer, being reminded that it gets easier can help motivate them to continue on.
“I’m glad that you told me.”
This could be music to someone's ears who is so afraid to talk about their suicidal thoughts. Many people are so scared to come forward, and you verbally rewarding them can make it easier for them to talk things out. This takes the fear and judgment out of the conversation, making them feel safe enough to open up to you again if these thoughts persist.
“I’ll go with you to the doctor if you need me to.”
This not only shows how much you care by going out of your way to be somewhere with them, but it can also encourage them to seek medical care by taking a step out of the process. It can help them stay in the waiting room instead of walking out because you’re there with them.
“Please let me know if you feel like this again.”
Many people who are suicidal feel like they are a burden to their loved ones. This can make it so easy for them to not talk to them about their problems. If they have opened up to you, they are probably taking note of how you react figuring out if they are a waste of your time or not. Let them know that you are a listening ear to their problems whenever they need one.
Are You Suicidal?
If you are having thoughts of ending your life, seek out a medical professional as soon as you can. There are hotlines to call, but having a one on one conversation with someone who can sort through your brain with you can prove to be extremely beneficial. They may put you on medication which can help level you out, so your emotions aren’t as strong. If you aren’t a fan of pharmaceuticals, CBD has shown in studies that it may be a fast-acting antidepressant which could be the solution for you.
Do you have a story that can help someone who is struggling? We would love for you to share so people can see that there is hope. Leave your story in the comment section below!