Helping Others Through Suicidal Thoughts

Posted by Matthew Jensen on

You may not be aware that September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month; but, you may know someone who’s committed suicide, or know someone who knows someone who has committed suicide. In one way or another most of us are impacted in some shape or form by this all too inescapable issue. 
 
When someone commits suicide it’s common for us to be left with a lot of questions and often confused feelings about what happened. Then, when we look around at those who may be hurting among us, it’s common for us to be scared about what to say to someone if we think they may be considering suicide. “What if I say the wrong thing?” we ask ourselves, “What if my words only contribute to their pain?”
 
It’s beneficial for us to realize that those who are battling with suicidal thoughts don’t simply want to die. Foundationally, they want to escape their pain and hurting, and suicide is a last resort when they feel that nothing else will work. Negative thoughts of hopelessness and isolation are played on a loop in their minds and they feel that no one else can truly understand their inner torment. After considering this painful reality we’re better able to come alongside the hurting among us in practical ways.
 
Here are three tools to utilize when helping others through suicidal thoughts:
 
1. Compassionately Engage Them
 
When we notice abnormal behavior from someone, the worst thing we can do is ignore it which only communicates to them that we just don’t care enough to ask about it. Remember, suicidal thoughts are kindled when those around us contribute to our internal feelings of isolation. The best thing we can do is to compassionately engage them. This includes asking them direct and probing questions about how they’re feeling and what they’re going through. With compassion we tell them what we’ve noticed and ask if there’s anything to what we’ve noticed. If they say they’re feeling suicidal, ask if they have a plan. However, whether they have a plan or not, feelings of hopelessness should always be taken seriously and with a spirit of compassion.
 
2. Listen to Them With Empathy
 
When talking with someone who’s suicidal we’re not trying to “fix” them. We often try to fix quickly what makes us uncomfortable to deal with, and end up forgetting what they’re going through as we make it more about our own comfort. However, as we intentionally sit in that tension and sorrow with them our main aim is to communicate through an empathetic listening ear that they’re worth our time and attention. Let them vent and express the rawness of their feelings. When they do, we can think about the levels of pain we’ve had in our own lives which will help us cultivate a deeper understanding and desire to listen to them and affirm their feelings. This will not only help them feel truly heard, but will establish a trust between us and them where they’ll be more inclined to take proactive next steps towards healing.
 
3. Offer Some Practical Hope
 
After we’ve talked with them about their raw feelings and what they’re going through, shift the discussion toward next steps. If someone has a plan and is anticipating to commit suicide soon, get professionals involved immediately. Though the level of help will be relative to where they’re at in their suicidal thoughts and depression, it’s always best to urge them to see their doctor and psychiatrist which may mean us even helping them make and go to an appointment. Our goal here is to give them practical next steps, including who to call, support groups to go to, etc. That way they’ve felt heard, valued, and have some practical steps to focus on, which can offer the possibility that suicide may not be their only option for their inner pain. Below are just a few resources that you can refer them to.
 
Remember, the greatest thing we can do for each other is to intentionally communicate to the hurting among us that we’ve noticed their pain, truly listen to them to show them they’re valued and loved, and partner with them by offering some practical hope. The good news is that there is in fact hope for the hopeless, even when life itself is in question.
 
Reach Out
 
24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK
Talk to Journey of Faith’s pastoral team: 310-372-4641
 
Journey of Faith Depression & Anxiety Support Groups
 
Men’s Depression Group: Sept. 10th– Nov. 12th, 7pm, The Cove, MB Campus
Women’s Depression Group: Sept. 10th– Nov. 12th, 7pm, The Family Room, MB Campus
 
Additional Resources for Us to Learn More
 
A brief article on helping to prevent suicide from NAMI: 
https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Family-Members-and-Caregivers/Preventing-Suicide
 
Information on warning signs from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:
https://www.afsp.org/preventing-suicide/frequently-asked-questions
 
Frequently asked question from the National Institute of Mental Health:
https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-faq/index.shtml
 
Mental health treatment locator from SAMHSA:
https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov
 
For more info, resources, or questions, contact Pastor Matthew at 

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