I have experienced being told by a very close person to me that they are having suicidal thoughts. And let me tell you one thing: When you hear a loved one telling you this, you literally have no idea what to do. You just don’t know the right thing to do or say.
But from my experience, this is what I have learned about how to act in a situation like this. So, let’s start with what not to do. Don’t take this lightly. Don’t assume that they might not actually be serious about it. Because if they’re even 1% serious about this, then they’re in real danger. So, please address what they are saying very seriously. It’s not something to be said casually.
You might actually find yourself paralyzed in such a situation with no idea of what to do because, in the end, you’re not a professional. But what you can do is to never leave them alone during a moment like this under any condition, whether you’re physically with them or on the phone or even on a chat. Listen to them carefully and hear them out; don’t judge them or freak out regarding what they are saying. I know that you might be freaking out internally at this moment, but it’s really important to try to stay as calm as possible.
In a moment like this, a person is in one of their most vulnerable states. You’ll want to make them feel like they’re not alone and that someone is right there by their side who loves them and wants to hear them out. You don’t want them to feel ashamed for sharing such a thing with you. Try to understand how they feel right this moment and what is triggering these thoughts. Try to have a conversation with them and let them speak about their problems freely. Don’t undermine them, no matter how much they might seem like no big deal to you. Let them speak about their feelings and try to understand them and make them feel how much you care about them and what they are saying.
When you get a sense that they have calmed down and started actually talking and opening up about what’s going on inside of their heads and that they are not trying to act upon it, but rather discuss what’s going on with them, only then suggest that they seek professional help. And make sure you don’t suggest that as soon as they share with you that they are having suicidal thoughts — this might trigger a negative response. So wait till they calm down first and wait till they have talked with you about it. Then, later, you can even search with them for some professionals and get their information together.
You’d want to check up on them constantly afterward and ask them how they are doing without making them feel that you are checking up on them just to make sure that they are not having any more suicidal thoughts.
I know this is not easy. I know that it’s not a situation we’ve been taught to handle. I know it takes a lot of mental strength and stability. And I know that at this moment, you might think of blaming yourself. You might think that maybe you haven’t been talking enough with them or checking enough on them and that you had no idea that they might be going through something like this. But please don’t make this about you. Please don’t beat yourself up for it. Just try your best to be there for your loved ones in a moment like this. Try to be as supportive as you can, but don’t think that this is your fault in any way. Just be grateful that they have talked to you about it and shared such a thing with you in the first place before acting upon it.