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Talking About Suicide with Someone Contemplating It

September is National Suicide Prevention Month. I want to address the issue of talking about suicide with someone you are worried may be suicidal. Many people are afraid to bring it up, ask about it, or talk about it, even with someone they are worried about for fear of putting the idea into that person’s head. Let me reassure you that this isn’t the case. You are not giving anyone the idea of committing suicide if you ask them about it and you are not making it more likely if you ask. In fact, it’s just the opposite. By asking a person you are concerned about if they are having thoughts of suicide, you are giving them permission and safe space to talk about a subject which is very frowned upon in our society. Having someone to talk with may actually be what helps them hold on until they no longer have those suicidal thoughts. People who are feeling suicidal are often feeling very alone; having someone willingly listen and talk about this can provide a powerfully protective feeling of connection.

Maybe you’ve worried about someone at some point but you’ve been afraid to ask because you didn’t know what to do. That’s certainly understandable! Believe it or not, there are therapists who don’t ask because they are afraid and don’t want to deal with it, either. It’s a scary place to be but it helps if you have some information ahead of time so you feel at least partly prepared. I want to recommend taking a mental health first aid course. You will learn many helpful things, such as how to help someone who is having a panic attack or someone who is experiencing hallucinations or delusions. And, most importantly, you’ll learn how to support someone who is feeling suicidal and assist them in getting the professional help they need. To learn more or to find a course, visit the mental health first aid website. ( https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/ make the “mental health first aid website” the link, please)

Additionally, you might want to add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to your phone. Should you ever be with someone who is in serious crisis and actively considering suicide, you’ll be able to connect them with help immediately. Here are the numbers for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

English Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

The Spanish Lifeline is 1-888-628-9454.

The deaf/hard of hearing Lifeline is 800-273-8255.

You might also want to have this link bookmarked in your browser: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ This link will take you to an online chat with the Suicide Prevention Lifeline helpers. This chat is available 24/7.

If you find yourself talking with someone who is suicidal, you might be worried you’ll say the wrong thing. If you can listen to the person and show them you are hearing their pain, that’s a good start. Don’t argue with them about whether suicide is a sin or morally wrong. Don’t judge them, tell them they are cowardly, or try to give them a pep talk. Simply listen supportively. If you are able to, remove the means from the person, such as offering to store their gun or pills until they are no longer feeling suicidal. For more information, visit this link: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-someone-else/

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