When someone talks about suicide or says they are thinking about it, it can be really scary and rightly so. Alarm bells are raised and people might go into ‘fix it’ mode. Let’s take a step back and be honest for a minute; everyone thinks about suicide at some point or another and that is completely normal. Thinking about suicide might look like wishing you weren’t around or wishing something would happen to end your life. Thinking about suicide and thinking about following through with suicide are two completely different things and warrant two different responses.
If someone is thinking about suicide, I think one of the best things we can is have a conversation about it. We want to find out why these types of thoughts are happening and how we can support the person. This might mean having a family conversation or involving a counsellor to help provide additional support. It is okay to ask someone if they are thinking of killing themselves, you are not going to plant the idea in their head. This often provides a lot of relief as it allows the person to open up and share what is on their mind; they don’t have to carry the burden alone.
If someone has a plan for following through with suicide, there is some action that needs to be taken. If the threat is immediate, call the police and they can have the person taken to the hospital. If the threat is not immediate, it is still a good idea to get in as soon as possible with a trusted family doctor or health care provider. Keeping the person safe is the number one priority and again opening up the conversation around suicide can do wonders.
I get that suicide is not an easy issue to talk about. It is uncomfortable and scary. Imagine though it is you who is feeling that way. These conversations need to be had, and had without judgment. Thinking about suicide does not mean there is anything wrong with that person, but it does mean they are struggling and in need of some extra support.