What to do to help a person in distress thinking of suicide

How to Really Help Someone Struggling with Thoughts of Suicide


Sober Recovery Expert Author

What to do to help a person in distress thinking of suicide

Suicide is a worldwide issue. Much like addiction, it does not discriminate and is typically associated with mental health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, one person in the U.S. dies of suicide every 13 minutes, and that 2.7 million Americans reported they have planned their suicide attempt over the past year.

With self-preservation hard-wired in almost everything humans do, it's difficult for many to fathom how some can arrive at the brink of cutting their own life short — especially when they appear to have it all. Perhaps, even more difficult, is knowing how to detect and help a person who is suffering so badly on the inside that, in their eyes, death appears to be their best option.

Suicide is a worldwide issue. Much like addiction, it does not discriminate and is typically associated with mental health problems.

SoberRecovery had the chance to speak with four people who've had four unique perspectives on suicide. Through their experiences, they're able to share the signs to watch out for and what you can really do to make a difference for someone thinking of taking his or her life. Below is a transcript of what they had to say.

Mother on how to deal with a possible suicide in the family

Carol Graham:

"[Our son] Kevin was showing signs that he was sad, but we didn't know he could die from being too sad. We lost one son to suicide. And with our son's suicide, there were warning signs, but we didn't see them until it was too late. Watch for the the signs in your loved ones. We could see Kevin was giving cryptic messages but I think, when you as a family come together and [get to] talk about anything that goes on with your minds, [that's considered] healthcare. Mental health care really is healthcare."

Mental Health Professional on what signs to look out for

Kevin Briggs:

"Watch out for things where they're out of their routine. Where they used to go out and have coffee with folks and be out a lot and now they're staying home or staying in the room all the time; they're giving away belongings; they're saying goodbye to people; maybe they're closing a lot of accounts that they've had; writing or talking about suicide is a big one. Most people we find who do [attempt suicide] mention it somewhere along the line."

Spouse on how to help a loved one struggling with suicidal thoughts

Heather Cruz:

"I think the most important thing that we need to start doing is listening to each other more. Not so that we can respond to each other, but so that we can really hear what the person is saying. I think when it comes to mental health, we need to learn to connect and we can't connect if we're not hearing each other."

Suicide Survivor on fighting the stigma on suicide

Kelechi Ubozoh:

"I don't think having the conversation or at least the initial conversation is easy, but what I found was a lot of people understood when they stopped being afraid of like, 'Oh, you're going to harm yourself?' I'm like, 'I'm really down. I'm really sad. I'm having these thoughts.' Once they slow down and listen to what was happening to me, that really changed the dialogue. You know, I think help looks different for every person but I would say that being honest and being open and not lying was the help I needed to get.

There's such a stigma around suicide. People don't even want to talk about it. And not talking about it is actually, I think, is what is killing people."

If you are in distress, don't hesitate to contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Are you or your loved one suffering from substance addiction and mental health concerns? Visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-891-8171 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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