It isn’t easy to know what to do when you fear a loved one is suicidal.*
Suicide is one the most dangerous risks of mental illness, the 10th leading cause of death in the US, and still remains a confusing and challenging issue to face, especially when a loved one is suffering.
Knowing how to support and protect a loved one, while not making things worse is a common fear people feel when they sense a loved one could be suicidal. Fearing for the safety of someone who is suffering can leave us feeling motivated to act, but unsure what is best.
Women’s Health asked me to weigh in on things to do when a loved one is suicidal, and I was pleased to help drill down to the basics for this excellent round-up. Bottom line, don’t be afraid to talk about it with a loved one, and urge them to get help. To read the full article, click HERE.
Ask about it
One myth of suicide prevention is that talking about it can increase the risk that someone will actually take their own life, but it’s just not true. “The reality is anyone with a significant depression has passing thoughts of death and suicide in a simple desire to end their misery,” says licensed clinical psychologist Alicia H. Clark, Psy.D. Instead of avoiding the topic, she recommends asking (with compassion) if things are so bad they have thought about death, or ending their life. Depending on the response, Clark recommends being prepared to follow up with questions like what they’ve thought about doing and why.
Talk about how much you love them
Being contacted by someone who cares can go a long way toward limiting the isolation and helplessness a suicidally depressed person can feel, says Clark. “Letting a loved one know how much you care about them, and offering help, can be an important lifeline in keeping them safe,” Clark says.
“Time alone if a person is withdrawn and suicidal allows for completion and should be avoided as much as is possible,” Clark says. Mayer recommends building a network of friends and family that continuously know where your loved one is and that they are safe. “In other words, they should be observed at all times as much as possible,” he says.
Take them to the hospital
If it seems like your loved one has a plan and you’re worried to let them out of your sight, try to take them to the ER and wait there while they get assessed, says Myers. “Asking them to call a therapist isn’t going to help at this point,” he says. This is a major step in helping someone who is seriously considering taking their own life, Clark says.
*If you are afraid for a loved one’s imminent safety, call 911, or your local community mental health crisis line for help. They are the best people to advise on safety protocols in your state, and the procedures to access care and protection for your loved one in need.