With the recent revelations from Harry and Meghan, regardless of your personal feelings, perceptions or expectations there is no better time to continue the conversation around suicide ideation.
It may (or may not) surprise you to know that in 2019 there were 5,691 registered deaths by suicide in England and Wales, equating to an average of 18 suicides per day.
18 suicides per day
In her interview Meghan touched on the shame, guilt, fear, anguish and stigma that all go hand in hand with suicidal thoughts. Regardless of how you may feel about her circumstances Meghan has given many people who are suffering with suicidal thoughts permission to look for help and support during a personally desperate time.
How people are received by either their families, friends, health professionals or work colleagues is of vital importance in deciding how comfortable they feel in accessing adequate professional help or how willing they are to accept their own feelings of stigma and/or judgement.
It is of vital importance to understand that if you have suicidal thoughts
you are absolutely not alone.
What to do if you have suicidal thoughts
You may feel as if your problems are all consuming and overwhelming. You may feel devoid of hope. These feelings do not mean that you are in any way weak or flawed or useless. It takes real courage to face such dark thoughts and to ask for support in doing so.
The single, most important thing you can do is to reach out for help. It doesn’t matter who it is as long as they are willing to listen to you, accept what you are saying and treat you with the compassion you deserve.
How to talk to someone about your suicidal thoughts
Even when you’ve decided who you can trust to talk to, admitting your suicidal thoughts to another person can be difficult.
Tell the person exactly what you are telling yourself. If you have a suicide plan, explain it to them.
Phrases such as, ‘I can’t take it anymore’ or ‘I’m done’ are vague and do not illustrate how serious things really are. Tell the person you trust that you are thinking about suicide.
If it is too difficult for you to talk about, try writing it down and handing a note to the person you trust. Or send them an email or text and sit with them while they read it.
If the person you have reached out to does not understand you or you don’t feel as if you are being appropriately supported here are some links to professionals who may be able to help
Samaritans - helpline
SOSsilenceofsuicide - helpline
Psychology Today - Search for a counsellor local to you
How to Support Someone with Suicidal Thoughts
If you are worried about someone in your life the single most important thing you can do to help them is to start a conversation with them, Starting a conversation about suicide does not lead to an increased chance of someone taking their own life. Small gestures like making a quick phone call to chat to them, asking them how they are today and waiting for an answer and also listening, without judgement can be extremely beneficial.
It is important to be aware that as someone supporting a person with suicidal thoughts you may need support yourself but also that you are not responsible for someone elses’ thoughts and actions. You do not need to find an answer for the person you are supporting and you don’t have to completely understand - if you show you care and that you are willing to listen to difficult feelings, the person you are supporting will feel less isolated, less hopeless and more supported
Consider the following:-
let them know that you care about them and that they are not alone
empathise with them. You could say something like, ‘I can’t imagine how painful this is for you, but I would like to try to understand
be non-judgemental. Don’t criticise or blame them
repeat their words back to them in your own words. This shows that you are listening. Repeating information can also make sure that you have understood them properly
ask about their reasons for living and dying and listen to their answers
encourage them to focus on getting through the day rather than focussing on the future
ask them if they have a plan for ending their life. Ask what the plan is
encourage them to seek help that they are comfortable with. Such as help from a doctor or counsellor, or support through a charity such as the Samaritans
follow up any commitments that you agree to
make sure someone is with them if they are in immediate danger
try to get professional help for the person feeling suicidal, and
get support for yourself.
When someone tells you that they are feeling suicidal your response may be to:
try and find an easy solution
tell them to ‘cheer up’, ‘pull themselves together’, ‘man up’ or ‘snap out of it,’
change the subject
tell them that they have no reason to feel like that
tell them that they shouldn’t feel like that
tell them that they should be grateful for having a good life, or
tell them that they are being silly.
Whilst these may feel like natural responses, as we all find watching loved ones suffer very difficult, our natural response is to ‘fix’ them or try to ‘cheer’ them up. These responses, unfortunately, have the opposite effect to our intentions. They leave the person feeling unheard, devalued, guilty and criticised and would likely cut the conversation short.
Simply try to keep the conversation open through listening and supporting the person who is reaching out for help.