How to Talk to a Suicidal Friend?

Lucy Walton  2019-09-13 01:16:19

If you have a friend contemplating suicide, you may be scared and unsure how you can reach out to help them. You may be worried you may say something wrong or even make the situation worse. Know how to talk the suicidal really matters a lot, and through the conversation, you can even prevent a disaster.

  1. 1Be present. Your presence and a good listening ear can be some of the best gifts you can give a person in crisis. Be empathic and imagine what you would like from a friend if you were suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. For example, if your friend is crying, you may be tempted to say, “There, there, it’s okay, stop crying.” But it is much healthier to let the tears keep flowing and not pressure your friend to stop. Stay quiet while your friend cries, and perhaps hold their hand or hug them if it’s appropriate.
    • 2Use active listening. This is a great way to show a person that you are really listening and for the person to know that they are being understood. Your job as an active listener is to paraphrase the speaker’s statements to let them know what you are hearing, as well as how it makes you feel. The good thing about paraphrasing is that it helps both you and the speaker clarify the speaker’s feelings. For example, if you say, “Wow, you sound really angry!” and the speaker responds, “I think I’m more frustrated,” it helps both of you have a better understanding of the true emotion behind the words.
      • 3Ask questions. Don’t pepper your friend with questions, but asking occasional questions to gain understanding is okay. It’s good to keep the person talking. You could ask your friend questions like, “Can you tell me me more?” or “How did that make you feel?” to continue the conversation. Or ask your friend what you could do to help them right now.
        • 4Avoid platitudes. Common “chin up” comments like “You’ll be okay,” “You’ve got this,” or “Cheer up, it’s not so bad!” are not helpful in crisis moments. Your friend is at their darkest point and feels completely hopeless. They do not believe they will be okay. When you are tempted to try to cheer your friend up, a better strategy might be to acknowledge their sadness instead through paraphrasing or reflecting back. For example, “Don’t feel bad, you’ve got so much going for you!” would be better rephrased as “It sounds like you’re under so much pressure, it must feel really overwhelming sometimes.”
          • 5Refrain from giving advice or telling your own stories. This focuses the conversation and the energy onto you, when it needs to be entirely about your friend. For example, while “You should really talk to a therapist ASAP” is probably the correct step for your friend to take, it also implies that they have failed for not having done that already. A better way to say this might be, “I will call the helpline right now and help you look for a counselor. Maybe we can set up an appointment for you tomorrow.”
            • 6Refuse to keep secrets. Your friend may ask you to promise not to tell anyone. This is not a promise you should keep. You need to get help for both your friend and yourself, because this is something bigger than you can handle alone. For example, you could say, “I promise that I will not tell anyone about your problems at home. But I need to call the helpline so I can learn how to be a good support to you. This is more than I can handle on my own.”
              • 7Let your friend know how much they mean to you. While your friend is in a very dark place and it may seem like your words are falling on deaf ears, do your best to bring them a glimmer of light by letting them know their importance in your life. Think of all the value your friend brings to the world, and share it with them. For example, you could say, “One thing that I appreciate so much about you, Jenna, is that you have such a big heart. You care so much about other people and connect with them so well. There would be a hole in so many people’s hearts if you left us.”