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Talking About Suicide with Someone Who is Suicidal

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When I was in college, I had a friend approach me and tell me he was suicidal. We had been on a drive and he asked me to stop so he could tell me something. That’s when he confided in me and told me how he was feeling and how long he had felt that way. It was the first time I had ever been in a situation that involved talking about suicide. I had no idea what to say.

When someone talks to you about suicide, take it seriously.

I was so uneducated on suicide that I didn’t know what to do. I told him how much I cared about him and I asked him not to go through with any plans he had. While this might have seemed nice, it wasn’t enough. My friend is still alive, but not thanks to me. What I said didn’t affect him because I didn’t know how to talk about suicide.

In 2017, there were 1,400,000 suicide attempts and 47,173 deaths in the United States.

Suicide is a scary subject. It scares those who aren’t plagued with suicidal thoughts because they aren’t sure how to help others and it scares those who are suicidal because they are afraid they’ll be rejected or misunderstood if they tell people how they feel.

Many people believe that talking about suicide will put the thought of it into someone’s head. This is not true.

In my last semester of college, I took a short course on suicide prevention. The class was an hour long and I walked out with a certification and a feeling of assurance that if someone ever talked to me about suicide again, I would know what to do. I just wish I would have been prepared sooner.

People are either considering suicide or they’re not. Talking about it does not put thoughts of suicide into their heads.

If I had been wiser when my friend was confiding in me, I would have asked:

  • “Why do you feel the need to commit suicide?”
  • “What has been making you feel unhappy?”
  • “Have you attempted it before?”
  • “How would you do it?”
  • “When have you thought about doing it?”
  • “What was happening when you wanted to do it?”
  • “Have you talked to anyone else about this?”
  • “Will you talk to someone else about this–do you want me to go with you?”

These questions seem pushy but getting the answers may be the difference between life and death. If I had known how my friend was planning to commit suicide, I could have taken extra steps to prevent it.

Educate yourself on different signs of suicide.

There are multiple signs that someone may be feeling suicidal.

  • Talking about wanting to die/kill oneself
  • Talking about having no purpose
  • Talking about being a burden
  • Talking about being in pain
  • Financial/relationship struggles
  • Increasing the use of drugs/alcohol
  • Longer/shorter sleep patterns
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Giving away important personal items
  • Disconnecting from loved ones
  • Aggressive and risky behavior

Some people believe that depression is also a sign of suicide. While depression and suicide are linked, it isn’t necessarily a sign of suicide. However, if you know someone with depression and he or she starts showing other signs of suicidal thoughts, talk to that person immediately.

Asking questions and recognizing signs of suicide prepares you for prevention and increases the likelihood of that person accepting help.

Once you know the circumstances that have influenced someone to feel suicidal, it’s easier to persuade him or her to get help. Because I failed to ask my friend any questions and I wasn’t educated on what to do, I didn’t know how to get him help. People who are suicidal may have a hard time confiding in others about their pain, so you might need to offer to go with them to see a doctor or therapist. If they refuse, ask them to call a support hotline where they confide in someone anonymously and for free.

If someone tells you they are suicidal, don’t let it go.

Everybody gets sad. Everybody feels depressed sometimes. But not everybody feels suicidal. When people talk about feeling suicidal (or even depressed) it is important to see to it that they get the help they need. If they refuse to talk to someone else and they ask you not to tell anyone, tell someone anyway. You might risk losing their trust, but you won’t risk them losing their lives. If they are hesitant to get help, research good doctors or therapists they can talk to and go with them. Refer them to resources that can help them, like mental health treatment programs. Continue to be their friend and support them. Don’t let it go.

Learn to talk about suicide.

I wish I had known how to help my friend when he first told me he was suicidal. But that experience taught me that you never know when someone will confide in you or show signs of suicide. Everybody should know how to talk about suicide. Educate yourself now and learn how to get people the help they need.

People who are feeling suicidal can get immediate help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.




About the Author: Hannah Anderson is from Logandale, Nevada and has a bachelor’s degree in communication. She wrote this article courtesy of Jackson House.

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The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.

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