how to help someone who's suicidal


6 Myths About Suicide

by Heather Loeb

Suicide is widely misunderstood, which makes sense because it’s considered a taboo subject in most every culture and just isn’t talked about enough. I get why some people don’t want to talk about it, but suicide rates are increasing in the U.S. I believe they will increase even more now that we’re dealing with a pandemic.

There will be lasting effects of coronavirus, and it’s undoubtedly going to wreak havoc on mental health in this country, not to mention, the rest of the world.

If we could normalize talk of suicide, I truly believe we could save lives, even – and especially – during times of crisis.   

It’s important to note that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., so this isn’t an uncommon problem.

Below you’ll find some of the most common myths relating to suicide.

  1. You shouldn’t bring it up – Don’t be afraid to broach the subject with someone who may have suicidal thoughts. Experts agree that by bringing it up, you’re not making it worse or giving anyone ideas. When you start the conversation, you are allowing someone to vent, and maybe by talking openly with you, your loved one might feel less overwhelmed by their feelings. And as I mentioned earlier, the more we talk about suicide, the more we reduce its stigma.
  2. Someone who’s suicidal truly wants to die – I speak from personal experience when I say this: when I have been suicidal, and there have been many instances, and experiencing suicidal thoughts, I’m doing so because I am overwhelmed with pain and just want it to stop. I don’t necessarily want to die, but when you’re in that much pain, all you can think about is it stopping. It’s understandable to me why people do die by suicide because of that.
  3. Someone who doesn’t have depression won’t die by suicide – While depression does increase the likelihood of dying by suicide, it does not need to be present in a loved one for them to be suicidal. Financial and work stress can contribute to someone feeling suicidal. Drug and alcohol substance and/or abuse also can contribute.
  4. Someone who is suicidal or who has attempted suicide is seeking attention or being dramatic – This is a dangerous assumption. Please treat every threat of suicide as a dire crisis, because it is. Even if you think they’re “being dramatic,” it’s easier to take a friend to the emergency room than a morgue. Anyone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts should be considered as in crisis mode and you should act appropriately. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use text the Crisis Text line by texting HOME to 741741.
  5. Giving someone a crisis hotline phone number is enough – While I have found the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to be extremely helpful in my times of crisis, sometimes it’s better to talk face-to-face with a friend or take your loved one to the hospital to ensure they are safe. Help your loved one come up with a Safety Plan, a simple guide of who to call and coping skills to use if in crisis. View an example of a safety plan here.
  6. People who die by suicide are selfish or taking the “easy way out” – I hate when I hear this. There’s nothing easy about being mentally ill or having suicidal thoughts. You don’t choose to have them, and all you want is to stop them. That’s not easy or selfish. Be compassionate and realize that if someone is seriously thinking about ending their life, it must be for good reason. Be a friend and leave judgement at the door.  

The best thing you can do as a friend is research ways to help your loved one, refrain from using judgement, sit with them if they are suicidal and take them to the hospital if they are in immediate danger of hurting themselves. DO NOT leave them alone, even if they ask you to leave. Stay with them to keep them safe.

Don’t be afraid to be direct and ask things, such as “Are you suicidal? Do you have a plan? Have you attempted before? Do you have a gun in your house?” and more. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s the best way to help.

Again, I just want to mention that there’s a 24-hour hotline, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that you can call at 1-800-273-8255. And the Crisis Text Line, just text HOME to 741741.

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