Have you ever suspected that someone you know may be having suicidal thoughts? Perhaps you’ve noticed your partner become uncharacteristically withdrawn, giving away prized possessions out-of-the-blue, or “getting affairs in order.” Or maybe a friend or family member who struggles with high anxiety and as a result of the pandemic, has become completely isolated and depressed. No matter the situation, suffering comes in many forms. The pain and hopelessness someone feels, whether emotional or physical, can be all-encompassing and can unfortunately breed thoughts of self-harm or even suicide.
Over the last year, crisis centers and hotlines have experienced a tremendous spike in critical calls due to the relentless stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has truly tested the bandwidth of our healthcare system in every way possible. It’s obvious that people are struggling; financially, professionally, relationally etc., all of which impact our mental health and our ability to cope with stress, leaving many people feeling like they have no way out.
When we suspect that someone might be thinking about suicide it is important to know that we can help. You don’t have to be a doctor or licensed counselor to help save a life. All you need is a little courage and some helpful strategies and resources to get your friend, family member, or co-worker the help they need.
Let’s talk about it.
Talking about suicide can be intimidating – this feeling is completely normal. Some may tip-toe around the topic due to fear of making matters worse or inducing suicidal thoughts, but the opposite is actually true. Providing the person with the opportunity to dialogue about their feelings is much more helpful than ignoring them and can pave the way for accessing the help they need. The key is to keep it simple. Be direct as possible while offering a caring and judgement-free space for this person to just talk. If you find yourself in a situation where someone is considering suicide, here are a couple of tips to follow:
- Let them know you care and that they are not alone.
- Ask them directly, in a caring manner if they are thinking of ending their life.
- Ask if they have a plan and/or means to do so.
- Use empathy. You can say something like, “I can’t imagine how painful this must be for you and I’m here to listen if you would like to help me understand.”
- Inquire about reasons for living (kids, pets, anything!).
- Try to contact professional support for the person considering suicide (see section below for resources).
What types of resources are available for in-the-moment support?
There are varying levels of support when it comes to helping someone who is contemplating suicide. All of these resources will have mental health professionals or highly trained volunteers to help you assess the best course of action whether that be getting the person to a hospital for evaluation or helping them create a safety plan.
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 for free, 24/7 crisis counseling
- Mobile Crisis Units: These are typically run by the county you live in and have staff who can come directly to you to help assess the situation
- EAP (Employee Assistance Programs): Most have a 24 hour support line for crisis calls and can link to free short-term counseling
- 911: If you feel the person is an immediate risk to themselves or anyone else do not hesitate to use this lifeline
- For those of you in management positions at your workplace, offer a QPR workshop – focusing on suicide prevention
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please know help is available, people do care, and you are not alone. Many mental health agencies and practices are available virtually and/or in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic and are ready and willing to help.
We have resources for ongoing support.
If you want to learn more about our services or practice how to talk to someone you love about suicide and live in Arizona, North Carolina, South Carolina, or Texas, we can help. Contact us to get started. We offer virtual sessions only right now to accommodate the safety of our staff and clients during the time of COVID-19.