Talking About Suicide: A Tough Conversation That We Need to Keep Having

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.



4 thoughts on “Talking About Suicide: A Tough Conversation That We Need to Keep Having

  1. What you say is true. When you deal with people in this state, it can be really scary. You have to rely and be in tune with your own feelings. I find that my intuition is pretty good. Since I have been there, I think I have a sensitivity or a sixth sense that helps. But, the reality is that we can not stop someone from doing this final act if the despair is so deep. You really have to get to the place where that person is.

    I am proponent of peer to peer. There is more trust in that type of engagement.. While I do see the role of professionals, sometime people with good intentions with credentialls are not helpful.

    • Hi Brent,
      Thanks for stopping by and for the comment. I agree with you that you have to be in tune with your own feelings and emotions in order to help someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts. It can be really terrifying yet liberating to have an open and honest conversation about suicide and I think helping others really starts with knowing yourself. You make a great point about peer to peer support. Sometimes knowing someone has walked in your shoes can be more helpful than anything a professional can offer. I would also throw out though that professionals are people too who have their own stories and struggles. Mostly I think it is just finding someone to connect with and feeling like they get you – whether that be a professional or not.

  2. It is true that many professionals have their own stories and should share them. It is also very true that many do not and do not belong in the therapeutic world. Unless that person has been there, so to speak, I think there simply can not be a true relationship. The relationship is not on the same plane. Trust is so critical. Brent

  3. Hi Brent,
    I agree that some therapists or helping professionals shouldn’t be in that line of work, but I think the same thing can be said about any profession. Depending on the client and situation, I may share a personal story if I think it would benefit the client. As a therapist, there is no way I can have a first hand understanding of every issue a client brings up. What I have found to me most helpful is empathy and the ability to try to see things from the client’s perspective. This can go a long way in connecting and building trust. If I client doesn’t feel comfortable with myself (or any therapist) I also encourage them to try someone else. It is a matter of finding a therapist that is the right fit for you.

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