Many people are concerned that if they discuss suicide with a person who they think may be experiencing thoughts of suicide, then that person might be at increased risk for making a suicide attempt. However, recent research on this topic indicates that there is no significant correlation between asking about suicide and making a suicide attempt. The fact is, that those who are thinking about suicide want their loved one to reach out to them. This desire for intervention is because those thinking of suicide feel socially isolated from those who they care about.
What Causes Suicide
Unfortunately, we do not have a clear answer about what causes suicide. The theory which we ascribe to is the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide which suggests that suicide is a three part interaction between feelings of social disconnection (thwarted belongingness), feelings of being a burden to oneself or others (perceived burdensomeness), and the ability to overcome the fear of death (fearlessness about death). Suicide is not selfish, cowardly, or a choice. It is the result of intense psychological distress caused by a psychological disorder. People who die by suicide often do not want to die, and many people who survive attempts report regretting making the attempt almost immediately after they made it. As a close friend or family member, you play an important role in preventing suicide. Therefore, it is important that you consider the warning signs of suicide if you observe abnormal behavior in your loved one. Remember, however, that regardless of the outcome, if your loved one makes a suicide attempt it is not your fault.
How To Respond
When exposed to disclosures of thoughts of suicide. Many people feel anxious or unsure of how to respond. Here are several helpful tips to help you know how to respond:
- Remain calm, non-judgmental, and supportive
- Communicate your concern and love for that person
- Avoid using terms like “selfish” or “did you think about how would I feel?”
- Communicate how important they are to you, and that their loss would be devastating to you
- Tell them that you will be with them every step of the way
- Help them find the resources they need, such as a therapist or a national hotline
- Sit down together and create a safety plan or download this app
- Work together to restrict access to means such as their personal firearms, medications, household poisons (e.g., drain cleaner), heavy ropes, etc. until they feel safe again
- Take them to the nearest emergency room if they feel like they might make an attempt
Remember…it’s Not Your Fault. Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts, and death by suicide is no one’s fault. Suicide is the unfortunate result of extreme mental illness, the effects of which compound over time. Often, there is not anything any one person can do to prevent a suicide. However, you have taken the first step in helping your loved one in their time of crisis, which is seeking more information in how to help them. Now that you know what suicide is, know the signs, and have a list of resources you will be better equipped to help your loved one. If you feel you need additional support, please call a crisis lifeline.