What if Your Friend is Suicidal?
By Dawn Sticklen on March 13, 2012
The call came at around 12:30 a.m. The sobbing was uncontrollable. Her words, barely audible, came through in gasps, “Help me…I dddon’t want to live…I don’t know who to call…wwwon’t listen to me…I’m not part of this world…I cccan’t keep pretending….”
My heart pounded in my chest as I fell out of bed and raced to the privacy of our basement in search of someplace where I could speak with her honestly and thoughtfully.
Her sobs grew louder and her words became more and more incoherent. I tried soothing her with statements highlighting her many talents and honorable qualities. I tried to reassure her that I love her, that her parents love her, that her best friend loves her. It wasn’t working.
Out of desperation, I stumbled over to my computer and typed in, “How to help someone who wants to commit suicide.” Immediately the website for the national suicide prevention center popped up. I clicked on the link and searched for a phone number – I needed help NOW. I dialed the number and on the third ring it was answered. I explained my situation in detail and listened intently as the counselor on the other end walked me through the various steps of how to help my friend. Finally, I switched back to my cell phone asked my friend if she would call them. She answered, “Yes.”
Still unable to breathe properly, I ran upstairs, changed out of my pajamas, and sped to her house. After a painfully long five minutes, she came to the door and bid me to enter. I sat in the dark living room while she continued to talk to the counselor in another room.
I noticed she was no longer crying. My breathing slowly returned to normal.
She hung up and we talked. She told me her sadness, her pain, her intense manner of feeling for the seemingly mundane events in the course of a normal day.
And I promised to help.
This was, undoubtedly, one of the most challenging nights of my life, and I don’t know how I would have handled the situation if the counselors at the suicide crisis center hadn’t been so readily available. I have no idea what they said, or promised, or what they persuaded my friend to agree to, and I suppose now it doesn’t matter. What does matter, though, is that she is still here. And she is receiving the help she needs. I will be forever grateful to those counselors for the simple reason that they saved my friend’s life.
I have to be honest and tell you that I have never actively researched what to do in the event of a potential suicide attempt by someone you love. I know the potential signs: loss of appetite, substance abuse, withdrawal from others, etc. But what if someone calls you in the middle of the night needing you to talk them down from the ledge? What do you do?
According to suicidal.com, there are several ways you can help someone who is contemplating suicide until they are able to seek professional help.
- Number 1 – learn and understand. Educate yourself about this biological illness. People with thoughts of suicide are genuinely ill due to a chemical imbalance in their brains. This imbalance prohibits them from being able to physically form a positive thought. If they could will these emotions to go away, they would!
- Help them to seek treatment IMMEDIATELY!
- Tell them, ask them, “Please don’t kill yourself”. Tell them you love them and would miss them either out loud or in writing – find a way to express your feelings toward them. They need emotional ties to the world as a final block, the last barricade to death.
- Help them do things by lending them your “will”. Help them do the things they need to do in order to get healthy – set up an appointment with a therapist, persuade them to take their medicine regularly, encourage them to live a healthy lifestyle. Whatever you need to do to ensure they maintain the energy they need to get better, do it.
- Be patient. Healing occurs in baby steps. They are learning how to equip themselves with the survival tools they need for a lifetime.
- Keep strong personal ties. Send reminders about your commitment to their well-being.
Watch for the signs in your loved ones. Sometimes the cry for help is unbearably loud; other times it is barely above a whisper. Always take the warning signs seriously, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Look at it this way: if you or someone you loved broke a bone or developed a high fever, wouldn’t you seek medical help? Depression and suicide are no different. Clinically depressed people cannot just “snap out of it”. Fortunately, much progress has been made in this illness, and help is available - please don’t wait to seek it.
If you suspect someone you love is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE, or visit their website at suicidal.com
Thanks so much for reading!
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