Suicide Prevention Month stirs up a lot of different emotions for different people. While some people use this time to show that they are here to help those who are struggling, other people feel a sense of sadness, hopelessness, or despair. The topic of suicide isn’t an easy one to talk about… as I write this post I scan every word multiple times to make sure I’m saying the right thing. However, there is truly not one right or wrong thing to say.
Suicide, a once taboo topic, is now being openly discussed, and, just like anything else in life, people respond to it in different ways. I can only speak from my personal experience, but I never liked to say the word suicidal. Regardless of how I was feeling or what I was thinking, I avoided that word like the plague. When dealing with mental illness, I found myself getting frustrated because I couldn’t name what was causing my depression and anxiety. When I had terrifying thoughts, I had a word for it, but I refused to use it. I don’t know what this says about me, but I do know that there are ways to help people, like myself, through the terrifying journey of being scared of inflicting harm on oneself (I still can’t say the word).
After years of therapy, if I was scared for my own life or if I thought someone else was putting him/herself in danger, I learned that the best option when helping someone is to be upfront. It is okay to ask if he/she is suicidal. The real decision is how to handle it if he/she says yes. If someone is feeling suicidal, take them to the emergency room. The emergency room has plenty of professionals who know what to say and what do to. However, once he/she is there, don’t disappear. Wait for them. Comfort them. Remind them that they are amazing and they will come out on the other side of this. Show this person that they have a village and that they are not alone. I went to the psychiatric emergency room once, and all of my friends stayed with me the entire day to make sure I was okay. They skipped class, comforted me, and watched my favorite shows with me. People often times wish that they could do more, but remember that being there is enough. Listening is enough. Giving them a shoulder to cry on is enough.
Back to the beginning… there is no right or wrong thing to say. Helping a person who feels even the smallest bit suicidal is hard, but there are resources to help. Some of the best things that my friends said/did for me are:
* “What can I do to help?”
* “How are you feeling today?”
* “Do you need me to call anyone for you?”
* “Try and eat something… I brought you something from your favorite lunch place.”
* “Go to sleep, if you want, I’ll still be here.”
* “I’m happy that you are feeling better.”
* “Do you want to talk about it?”
* “I love you. I’m here for you.”
The shortest phrases and smallest words go a long way. Remember that. You are loved. You will come out on the other side of this. You do have a village, you aren’t alone. I’m not saying it won’t be hard, I’m saying that we need you here and you are wonderful and loved.