Four Ideas to Help Someone Suffering with Thoughts of Self Harm

While suicide prevention is important to address year-round, National Suicide Awareness Month provides a dedicated time every September to come together and discuss this difficult topic. Though the narrative is a heavy, challenging conversation to have, it is necessary to talk about. Everyone is affected by suicide, not just the victim.

Suicide impacts family and friends long after the loss of a loved one. It’s vital to spread awareness, take time to reach out to those who may be struggling and put in the effort to understand the severity of suicidal thoughts.

But how?

Depressive thoughts can plague anyone regardless of age, gender or social status. There is no foolproof indicator someone is having thoughts of harming themselves. However, some warning signs can appear.

These signs include:

  • An increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Collecting and saving pills or buying weapons
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and the community
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Giving away possessions
  • Saying goodbye

If any of these signs are present in someone you know, it’s important to address these issues quickly. However, unlike other health emergencies, mental health situations do not have clear instructions on what to do or what to expect–like the Heimlich maneuver for choking or CPR for resuscitation.

We’ve put together a few ideas on how you can address individuals who may be showing signs of wanting to harm themselves:

  • Ask them directly if they’re thinking about harming themselves. Yes, it might be blunt. But there’s no room to beat around the bush when concerned about someone’s safety. Approach the situation with an open and compassionate mindset.
  • When they answer you, listen. People with thoughts of suicide often feel alone, so be sure to let them know that you care deeply about what they have to say. Instead of arguing or trying to disprove any negative statements, reflect their feelings and summarize their thoughts. This can help them feel heard and validated.
  • You may want to remove anything they could use to harm themselves, such as alcohol, drugs, medications, weapons or even access to a vehicle. Let them know you are taking these things away and explain to them why. 
  • Finally, don’t keep it a secret. In an immediate emergency, call 911.  In a non-emergency, encourage them to call their mental health professional, if they speak with one. If they don’t, act timely and help them find one who can help utilize the many services and resources available or take your friend directly to an emergency room. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24/7 to communicate. They can be reached at 800-273-TALK (8255). Or, if uncomfortable talking on the phone, NAMI has a textable option at 741-741.

Use this month to help make suicide easier to discuss. Spread hope and vital information to your loved ones and community. You never know who might be saved by simply starting conversations.

Native Reach content is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended to substitute any medical information nor be treated as official guidelines. Please be sure to check local and national resources and/or the opinions of medical professionals when making life decisions. Native Reach is not responsible for content to third party links.