Most people, including many mental health professionals, shy away from discussing suicidal thoughts with someone who is clearly struggling with life challenges. After all, having someone you love and care about decide to end their own life is devastating. But the reality is that if someone is considering suicide, your talking about it is not going to exacerbate the issue; if anything, the person may be relieved that someone else recognizes their agony.
According to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who studies suicidology, most people who decide to commit suicide have a critical inner voice that berates them relentlessly, making suicide seem like the only viable solution to end the pain. This voice drives people to behave in ways that they might not if they were feeling well. So, while you cannot read the mind of your ill partner, you can observe behavioral warning signs that your partner may be planning to commit suicide.
The American Association for Suicidology developed a mnemonic–IS PATH WARM?–to help people recognize the warning signs of suicide. It should be noted that these are not a checklist to determine whether a person will commit suicide–if your partner is exhibiting any of these signs, seek immediate help by calling 911, taking them to the nearest emergency room, or calling The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).