If you know someone who feels depressed or suicidal, there are things you can do to help dissuade them from following through on their suicidal ideation.
Here are five different ways to create deep connections and resonance with those who need it most.
Listen like nobody else
It is really easy to let your own emotions get in the way when speaking to someone you care about who doesn’t feel like there is any point in them existing.
When we let our emotions get in the way we go into ‘fix-it’ or ‘make it better’ mode which does nothing except make you like everyone else: unable to hear their thoughts and be with their feelings, which they are so desperately trying to escape themselves.
Most people who are idealizing suicide are longing for deep connection, to know people care about them and to know that they are cared about. When you start trying to fix things you stop listening and are searching for answers. That creates disconnection.
When someone is sharing their pain and despair, acknowledge it.
Thank them for sharing it with you. You will likely surprise them because often people who are suicidal don’t want to tell anyone because they don’t want to burden them with their negativity. When you thank them you open up the door to more sharing.
Acknowledge the suck they are talking about. If they tell you they went through a horrible experience like abuse or divorce that was painful, tell them how much that must have sucked and you’re not surprised that they feel so bad about it. It validates their feelings, not as a way to keep them feeling that way but to know it’s ok that they feel that way.
Find out what is important to them
Values are the things that we hold most sacred to ourselves. They are personal and unique to all of us. When someone is telling you their struggles and pain, listen for their values.
I once sat with a friend who was about to take his life. He felt like he had failed his family, friends and he was going to hell for all the pain he’d caused. Just listening to him I heard religion was important to him and we started talking about his faith and forgiveness. Religion is not something that is important to me but this was not about me but him, his needs and how he felt.
We talked at length about God and religion and that religion teaches about forgiveness as much as punishment. We talked about what was important to him about his faith and then I spoke to those values. I also told him if he decided to not take his life that I would be there to reconnect him to his values when he got lost and overwhelmed. I also told him if he did try to kill himself I’d still be there with him and wouldn’t abandon him because he’d see that at least one person cares about him.
Be there for them no matter what
When someone shares their feelings with you, there is a real fear of being abandoned like they feel everyone else has done to them in their life. They feel like a burden.
Keep reassuring them that you will be there for them if they decide to carry on. Be there as someone to listen, be there as someone to go with them to see a doctor or be there to keep them company.
Don’t underestimate companionships
When someone feels lost and like ending their life, there is often a longing to not feel alone. Your company and desire to be there can be the most magical medicine. You don’t even have to say anything. If you can be completely relaxed and just be there, you’re winning a big battle.
In our digital age, it is often hard to remember what compassion and care look like in its raw form because so much of our lives are online on social media where it gets emoji reactions without any substance.
Physical connection cannot be replaced by emails, online messages or texts. It is something that requires you to be present. It is a human craving to feel connected to others and no amount of social media or online forums can make up for physical presence with someone.
Nurture it and honour the need. It saves people’s lives.
The most important part of being there for someone who is in need is being able to just be. Be peaceful, listen, be calm, and be present. The chaos will calm when you do.
Important note – if you are supporting someone with mental health issues or who is suicidal do not forget to look after yourself. Find someone you can talk to – you do not have to do it alone either and it can be mentally exhausting helping people no matter how much you want to be there.
Written by Philip Hicks