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How to Help a Suicidal Person

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Authored by Douglas Mefford in Self Improvement
Published on 11-29-2009

Life can be difficult even for the best of us. Through overwhelming problems, depression, mental illness or chemical imbalance in the brain, there are those who feel the only relief they may find is in death. There may come a time when you encounter a friend or loved one who talks of suicide to end their troubles. Always take such talk seriously. Even those who do so more to get attention are still capable of taking that last, irretrievable step if they feel totally lost and hopeless.

Be supportive of the person. Listen closely to what they are saying and the reasons they have for feeling that suicide is a solution. Do not try to solve their problem for them. In the first place, you do not wish to be put in the situation of being their “savior.” Secondly, they will be in more need of talking their problems through and you should devote your attention to their words. Unless you are a trained psychiatrist, you should see if they are willing to seek professional help from a mental health worker.

If the suicidal person is calling you on the phone, try to find out where they are at. It is recommended that you call emergency personnel, especially the police, immediately. They are trained to take steps to see the person is kept safe and taken to a professional for evaluation. If the person admits to having a firearm, this should be mentioned so proper steps can be taken to remove that danger.

While talking with the suicidal person, you should investigate their thoughts. Find out if they have already formulated a plan to kill themselves. Learn if the plan they have will actually be lethal and if they do have the means to go through with the suicide. If it is not already known that they have a case of depression or an existing mental illness, try to determine if such is the cause of their hopeless anxiety.

While talking with them, do not be judgmental and lecture them on what they “should” do. Remain calm and do not express anger at the thought of them killing themselves. While suicide can be a very selfish act that harms the people left behind as well, do not use such guilt making tactics to dissuade the suicide. It can often trigger even greater resolve to die. Never discount the feelings the person expresses. Even if the feelings they express are invalid and rambling, it is still what they feel and is very real to them at that time.

Listen actively to their conversation. Let them know you are truly listening by repeating their statements back to them. Let them know that you still care for them and that the world is not totally against them. Allow them to demonstrate their feelings whether it is through crying or yelling. Seek to show empathy with their feelings. Take the time to be with them. Feed them if they are hungry or listen to music or watch a movie. The primary goal is to help them return to a calmer state. While waiting for professional help to arrive, do not leave the person alone, not even for a moment.

If the threat of suicide is not immediate, then you can take the time to set up appointments for the following day to help them get professional help. Remember that a suicidal person usually feels abandoned and alone. Be the friend that is there for them until the cause of the problem is resolved so your friend or loved one can return to a more stable existence.

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