It is normal to consider all possible solutions to a stressful situation. It is estimated that about 5% of a population in any year will consider the possibility of not being alive. What really matters is whether such suicidal threats and thoughts are passing fantasies, or strong temptations to suicide, depending on how distorted the person’s thinking has become due to stress.
It is better to ask direct questions. Remember it is a myth that talking about suicide will 'put the idea' into someone's head. And do not react with shock or a negative reaction as they tell you what they are thinking; stay calm, see how bad things are, and offer strong reassurance that they can be helped to think differently, and that life will be as good as it used to be before they had these negative and hopeless thoughts caused by stress.
The most important issue is that your friend can be honest with you about how they feel. Even if you are not used to dealing with such situations, and if you feel frightened or upset, it is important to offer support for the fact that your friend is being honest with you. It is also very important to reassure your friend that you understand how badly they must feel to have thoughts of suicide, but to insist that there are other solutions to the situation. Your friend may insist the pain and emotional distress of their problem will never pass, but people survive war, and even the painful memories of wars eventually fade away. Human beings are programmed to survive and to overcome and forget pain in time.
Remember that if someone is talking to you about suicide they are still considering not taking their own life. They are seeking help.
One discussion is not going to permanently wipe out serious suicidal ideations. On the other hand, frequent, regular contact with your friend while they are having such a tough time, will help to protect and keep them safe while the suicidal ideas grow weaker with time. Persevering is very useful, even if it simply takes the form of making sure your friend is not left alone, until the problem has been resolved. Making sure your friend is with someone when suicidal ideas are significant can be very useful, especially when your friend understands they do not have to make conversation or interact in their normal way.
If your friend has an illness which causes them to have thoughts of suicide, do be aware that such illnesses can come back from time-to-time, often with the suicidal ideas coming back much earlier than before. Again, support and persistence will make a big difference.
This is the point where you can assess if you need to get more help: Ask your friend if they can agree with you to 'stay safe' for an agreed period of time. This can be any time that you can agree. If they can't agree a week, ask them if they can stay safe for a day. If they can't commit to that try agreeing on one hour. If they can't make what you believe is a genuine commitment to you that they will stick to, it is time to call in help immediately.
Be honest and say 'Look I'm worried now that you are going to harm yourself, I'm going to call for help from a professional counsellor/police/doctor, I'll stay with you until they arrive." Stay with them or bring them with you to a phone and make the call
If your friend tells you they have made a plan to harm themselves make sure that it is disabled and made safe. Go with them and get them to give you the pills/rope/bullets/car keys/knife and put them out of reach.
There are a number of psychological illnesses, which distort people’s thinking and let them see only negatives in life; this can make suicide seem attractive. Illnesses, such as depression, panic, alcohol problems, bipolar illness, schizophrenia etc. etc. can all change people’s outlook. It is often hard to convince a friend that their strongly-held viewpoint about how dreadful their life is, can actually be a symptom of illness. It is like your friend is looking at the world through damaged glasses, seeing only blackness and despair.
It can be very useful to persuade them that you go to a doctor or other professional with your friend, tell the doctor what has been said, and then leave the room so the doctor can talk to your friend and intervene appropriately.
it is emotionally draining to be trying to help anyone who is having suicidal ideations or threats. Make sure you look after your own safety both physically and emotionally. Remember if someone has decided to end their life it is their decision; what ever you have done to try and help will not have been a cause of their death. You are a friend, not a trained professional. If you find yourself in this situation seek help for yourself.
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