These are ideas to help someone who is feeling suicidal but is not actively a danger to themselves; if you feel that someone is in immediate danger of acting on their suicidal feelings, you should call the emergency services or a hotline to get further professional advice.
1. Ask them if they want to talk
It’s important that you don’t try to force someone to talk; letting them know that you are there for them and are ready to listen without judgement whenever they are ready is far more valuable than pushing the topic if they say they don’t want to talk right now.
2. Offer to sit or lie with them in silence
Offering to just be there, without talking, without actively doing anything, but just offering your presence is something that often people don’t understand the value of; having someone just be there without expecting you to interact, just knowing you have that company, is honestly invaluable.
3. Suggest watching a film together
Offering to put on a cheerful or funny film and watch it together can allow your loved one to feel less alone, without having to engage too much socially. It’s important to remember that when someone is in this state of this mind, even though they love you, it’s incredibly hard and draining to focus on anything else never mind social nicities. Letting them know that you understand that and offering options that take that pressure off, can be incredibly helpful.
4. Ask them if they’d like to do crafts or play a game
Keeping your loved one engaged in something that keeps them somewhat distracted and encourages interaction can be comforting and fun. Take the lead with this, suggesting a couple of specific options so that they don’t need to overthink it such as, “Shall we paint our favourite animals?” and having the paints there ready, or “Shall we play this game like we did when we were younger?”. This might seem silly in the face of something so serious, but can genuinely be really helpful.
5. Suggest a walk together
Encouraging a change in environment and getting active can help to change their mindset a little bit and can keep them busy; it’s often incredibly hard to get motivated when you’re in this mindset so encouragement and having someone with you is fantastic.
6. Offer to contact mental health professionals
Offering to call or take them to see mental health professionals, whether this be the doctor or their own mental health team, or even calling a hotline, can help them to consider those options and remind them what is available, and also take a little bit of the pressure off if it feels too much for them to call on their own. If they aren’t in immediate danger though, please do respect if they say no, and maybe just offer again a little bit later on.
7. Do not dismiss their feelings
It’s important that you understand that their feelings are valid, even if you can’t see any logical reason why they might feel that way; don’t dismiss their feelings or use phrases such as ‘there’s no reason to feel this way, you have a good life’. Don’t use phrases that would make them feel guilty or diminish what they are going through.
8. Don’t walk on eggshells
There’s a line between being mindful of dismissing their feelings and treating them differently. Remember that they are still the same person that you have always known, even if they are in a different mindset that you might not recongise; they’re still your loved one so treat them as such.
9. Don’t take negative emotions personally
If they do feel able to express themselves their emotions are going to be very negative, it can be hard not to take this personally but try to remember that it’s the suicidal feelings that are making them feel this way, and that most likely they don’t mean to upset you.
10. Remember you don’t need to fix it, you just need to be there
It’s important to remember that your loved one isn’t going to be expecting you to fix the situation, don’t put that pressure on yourself; just being there is what you can do to help.
11. Stay calm outwardly
Seeing a loved one in such despair is extremely hard to cope with and even though you will be feeling all sorts of emotions and may feel like you aren’t quite sure what you’re doing, try to stay as calm outwardly as possible. The reassurance that someone is there to support you who is calm and in control really makes a huge difference.
12. Take care of yourself
Remember that you need to take care of yourself too: if you feel that you need help during or afterwards, call a helpline or contact a loved one; if you need a break take one; if you need someone else to step in, then ask them to. Your mental health is just as valid and important as that of the person you are trying to help.