“Life is just not worth living. I want to kill myself”
Nothing is scarier than hearing those words from someone you know/love dearly. Of course, you want to scream that suicide is not the solution.
It is not easy to deal with feelings of suicide. Sadly, life never came with an instruction manual. It is natural to feel the pressure when you want to help that someone, especially when you are not sure what to do or say, for fear of making things worse. The good news is there’s no hard and fast formula.
Imagine changing someone’s life by simply reaching out!
How to help someone contemplating suicide
Survivors of a suicide attempt have a lot to share about what made the difference for them—what words and actions worked. Here are tips from people who felt suicidal –what helped them?
Here’s what 20 survivors have to say about what helped them overcome feelings of suicide
- Feeling suicidal is not a result of selfishness or being petty. It usually happens when they feel there’s no way out of what they’re going through. Sure, one can talk about those they’ll leave behind, but at this point, this isn’t helpful because they’re already convinced these people don’t care. More important is to acknowledge and accept the feeling. Then, talk about a way out—why choose life and how to get help. It is a matter of validation.
- Telling someone who’s feeling suicidal that you care for them and love them helps. Making them feel guilty just makes things worse. Most likely they’re aware of the effect their suicide will have on those left behind; they just need to know that there are people who care about them, love them the way they are. They need someone who is ready to listen without judgment. Suicide is not a weakness.
- Someone who’ll listen, allowing them to talk, vent everything going on in their heads. Sit quietly and hold their hand—just be there for them. Be non-judgmental.
- Assure them they’re not a burden, tell them how special they are, how their presence matters.
- When they mention feeling suicidal, take it seriously rather than assume it is a way to seek attention. Don’t leave them alone with their thoughts, even if they insist. Be physically present and if that’s not possible, talk, listen on the phone. Encourage them to step outside, walk around, distract themselves with a hobby—essentially show them you care and accept them as they are. It is fine to be direct and not beat around the bush.
- Tell them they’re strong, highlight their strengths. Remind them.
- When they cry, hold them close. Cry with them. Don’t tell them “things are not that bad” You know it, but they don’t. Reassure them, saying they are not the terrible person they think they are, even if they don’t believe it at that point. Remind them of the good things they’ve done, their accomplishments.
- Presence matters. Go over, stay with the person until they get over the urge. If they have to see their therapist or visit the hospital, be with them. Accompany them. Don’t let them go it alone. Look after them. Pack clothes and other essentials if they need to stay overnight. Tell them that hospital is safe and a good place to get the care they need.
- Talk. Talk. Tell them there are choices. There are options. Help them realize they are not helpless.
- Keep in touch—keep texting or calling—it doesn’t matter if they don’t answer. Gently remind them they have access to professional help to carry them through this traumatic time. Tell them it is absolutely okay to reaching out for help. Send them helpline numbers. Sometimes it is easier to talk to strangers—so remind them of that option.
- Try to distract them. Are they hungry? Why not get something to eat? Take them something to eat. Ask them how they’re feeling and then steer the conversation to other things. Let their minds wander so they can get a hold of themselves.
- Don’t ever say they’re being selfish. At this point, they believe their suicide will make the world a better place.
- Don’t be preachy about why they must be alive. Instead, give them reasons. Show them why.
- It is okay to use the word suicide. Ask them if they feel suicidal, because they are definitely not going to voluntarily talk.
- There’s no need to understand or try to fix them or their current problems. Just shower them with love and care, and tell them you love them, you care for them. Make them feel they’re wanted.
- Let them know they have the strength to weather the most challenging storms, and that the sun eventually shines. Sometimes it is necessary to hang in there and hang on until it passes.
- While asking questions, keep it simple and easy to answer—with a yes/no. Are you safe? Are you hungry? Shall I take you to the hospital/therapist?
- It is okay to have a normal conversation and talk about every day stuff. No lectures. Normalcy helps.
- Understand that right at this moment, the person is going through a difficult time.
- You have to listen. Really listen. Stay calm, remember to be non-judgmental and make no assumptions. Take them seriously. Give them time.
As you can see, the recurring theme is listening. For the most part, it takes empathy, compassion, genuine caring and the willingness to help. It is important to let them know that you believe them and want to be there for them.
Suicidal behaviour is a cry for help.
Be willing to give and get help sooner rather than later
This year’s World Suicide Prevention Day theme is “Working Together to Prevent Suicide”
Let’s work together to prevent suicide.
Some suicide prevention helplines across India are:
- Aasra, Navi Mumbai 24×7 Helpline: 91-22-27546669
- Roshni, Hyderabad 11am to 9pm +914066202000/2001
- Maithri, Kochi 10 am to 7 pm every day 0484 2540530
- Sumaitrai, Delhi Monday to Friday between 2pm and 10pm and from 10am to 10pm on weekends 011-23389090.
- Sneha, Chennai 24 hours all weekdays. +914424640050/60,
- Lifeline, Kolkata +913324637401/7432
- iCall, Mumbai 8am and 10pm from Monday to Saturday +9122 25521111
- Jeevan, Jamshedpur 0657-6453841/6555555
- Samaritans, Mumbai all days from 3pm-9pm +91226464 3267/65653267/6565 3247
- Sahai, Bangalore Monday to Saturday between 10am and 8pm +918025497777
- Cooj, Goa 3pm to 7pm Monday to Friday 08322252525
- Saath, Ahmedabad all days, from 1pm-7pm, on +91 79 26305544/26300222
- Hope Helpline, Kota 0724 433 3666
Vidya, I run a patient forum for chronic patients. Many patients in my forum are suicidal. Couple of them even left us. I often feel helpless. I do refer them to counselors but many of them are in so bad shape that they don’t even want to go. This post is like a god-sent. Can I share this in my forum? I am sure many of them would benefit from this one. I am running short of words to express my gratitude for this post. God Bless you.
Feel free to do so, Balaka. Thanks for your lovely response to this post. Your comment makes me feel so happy. I understand the dilemma of dealing with suicidal people; we can never claim to fully know what they’re going through. I’m glad you find this post useful. Hugs!
An insightful and very useful post, Vidya.
As a suicide survivor, I agree with a lot of these points. Most of the time, it’s just a need to be acknowledged and understood, without judgment. I hope more people get this. Thanks for adding the suicide helpline numbers. One never knows when it can be useful.
Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…How to be productive on social media
I’m all for helping suicidal people get over their depression and feeling of inadequacy and helplessness but what do you say to someone who is terminally ill and would rather die than suffer more pain and financial outflow? This is a specific case I’m talking about – a 90 year old man who was dying of cancer. There was really no point in him living was there?
This is really a helpful post. I’ve come across so many close people who at some point or the other have either contemplated, attempted or harbored suicidal thoughts and I have been at loss of judgment on what actually I could say or do to help them out of their situation. I’m going to bookmark this. Thanks for sharing, Vidya. <3
Wow what a post Vidya – the validation from Balaka is huge on this!! I so agree with the preachy/make them feel guilty – point! That is such a wasteful thing to do to someone at this junction in their lives.
Being supportive and giving a patient hearing are the best things one can do for people in such situations though I have never come across anyone so.
People left behind, always wonder what they didnt do enough or what they could have done to prevent this – I wonder if there is a special counselling for them too?
A very powerful post! Well done.
Very well said. I was going to end life and before that found this blog. Do yoga with love. very helpful article thank you for sharing it