People who are thinking about suicide are in a lot of emotional pain. The pain could be a biological brain chemistry issue, but more likely it is a response to overwhelming loss and frustration. We pride ourselves on accomplishments and very little time is spent teaching our children to deal with frustration and failure. At times, the most successful can be the most vulnerable when they encounter failure for the first time. And sometimes it’s because of repeated failures.
When people fail and feel frustrated, they are embarrassed and ashamed. How is it that we have somehow taught our children that shame is appropriate when we fail? How can we evolve our society to praise the willingness to take a risk and fail? How can we get people to understand that failure is hard but teaches you a lot and builds character? We have to somehow start conveying to each other that failure is not the end of the world. All successful people have endured failure at some point in their lives. Failure is as much a part of a successful life as any other quality. Somehow, we have to remind people of this more, especially when people are overwhelmed and upset.
There is an instinct in us that makes us want to back off when something scares us. People who are going through a difficult emotional time scare us. We become afraid we don’t have the resources to help them, so we withdraw from them. We withdraw, they withdraw, and the more isolated they feel, the more likely they are to feel no one will care if they die. The most important thing you can do to prevent suicide is to ask the person we’re concerned about what they’re feeling. Ask directly if they have thought about taking their own life, or if they have thoughts of wishing they were dead. If they answer yes, you need to ask the next question- have they thought about how they might do it. If they give you a method of how, then they are actively thinking about it and your next step is to determine if they have access to that method. For example, if they answer they would overdose on their medication, your next step would be to ask if you can hold their medication for them and give them just a week supply at a time, and go through the drawers and medicine cabinet with them to remove anything dangerous. Did you know you can call the police to do a “well being check”? The police will go to the home and talk to someone if you’re on the phone with someone and you’re worried they will do something to take their lives. Usually these officers have been specially trained.
Your job as the confidant is to stay engaged and involved until and while the person is engaged with a professional that will help them. Therapy and medications are important tools to be considered when someone feels that bad. Do your best to connect them with a professional, but don’t underestimate the importance you have in their lives because they’ve told you what they’re thinking. Here’s the kind of thing that would be helpful to say to someone you know is struggling with severe depression, or frustration, or shame.
“I know you are in a lot of pain, it feels like nothing will ever get better. You feel like you are all alone in this horrible place, but please don’t take your life. This really bad feeling feels worse because you think it will last forever. Maybe it went away for awhile and came back. Maybe something really painful or terrible has happened in your life and you feel it will never get better.
The feeling feels like death. It feels like you’re dying, but you’re not dying, you’re just in pain and however bad it feels, it won’t last forever and it can get better. It feels really painful and you don’t know what to do. Don’t give up. It’s time for you to talk to someone you trust and tell the truth about what you’re thinking about so that we can try to help you. The most important thing to do right now is to try to calm yourself down. Sometimes a good night’s sleep can make things look very different. Sometimes you just have to calm yourself down by doing breathing and mindfulness exercises. Please stay away from alcohol and drugs right now. Those things affect your inhibitions and make you more likely to do something everyone will regret. Can I help you find help? Can you make a promise to keep yourself safe? You are very important to me, I would be devastated if I lost you in my life. I need you. ”