We can learn useful things by talking to people who survived a suicide attempt. All to often people do not know what to say to someone who tried to end their life. The person may be concerned about how people will view them if they admit to a suicide attempt. In some situations there may be a valid concern about losing one’s employment. An insightful article in Health reports on conversations with three suicide survivors. They say that there are 10 things to know in regard to talking about suicide. The point is that it is OK to talk about suicide with a survivor.
Talking About Suicide Does Not Trigger a Suicide Attempt
Social isolation is one of the major risk factors for suicide. Not having someone to talk to means a person keeps rehashing the same sadness and depression inside their own head. When a person who has attempted suicide can talk about it, that is generally healthy. More often that not it is what they needed in the first place. The idea to end their life was already there. Talking about it with another person does not make a person want to try again to end their life.
Speaking About Suicide Can Be a Huge Relief
One of the suicide survivors interviewed by Health came from a dysfunctional and abusive home. They knew intuitively that you do not talk about your troubles with anyone, inside of or outside of the home. Not talking about suicide is like pretending it did not happen. It is like pretending that it was not important and that the suicide survivor is not important. That is more likely to lead to suicidal thoughts and another attempt. Talking about the suicide attempt is a way to get out of the downward cycle of shame, guilt, and depression that lead to suicide attempts.
People Do Not Know What To Say About Suicide
Most people are not sure what to say to a suicide survivor. So they say nothing. A veteran whom Health interviewed admits that people saw him differently when they found out about his suicide attempt. He told the interviewer that it is perfectly OK to say that you do not know what to say. You care about the person and would like to help in any way that you can. But you do not know even the first step. He told the interviewer that saying exactly those things is a perfect way stay in touch, provide help for, and express your concern for a suicide survivor. The fact is that you do not have to say much. A person who was sufficiently troubled that they tried to end their own life needs to have someone listen to them and not engage in a running commentary that makes them feel even worse.
What to Do and What to Say to a Suicide Survivor
There are some basic things to keep in mind when someone you know might be suicidal. To a large degree these also apply when speaking to a suicide survivor. Do not be judgmental when speaking to a suicide survivor. It is very likely that living in a judgmental family or other social situation was part of what drove them to attempt suicide. Let the person talk and express themselves. Many who attempt suicide do not see a way out of their difficulties. Simply having someone listen and not judge them is helpful. While you may feel shocked that the person tried to end their life that is not what you want to express to them. Just being available, interested, supportive, and involved can make a huge difference. While being somewhat passive and doing a lot of listening is good, it is also important to suggest that the person seek professional help. It is also important to be aware of any signs that the person is contemplating suicide again, in which case active steps like removing firearms or pills would be a good idea.
Do Not Be Afraid to Say the Word Suicide
People to try to commit suicide have commonly spent a long time hiding their feelings and difficulties. They often believe that by talking about how they feel and especially that they have thought of ending their life that people will look down on them, avoid them. Having someone talk about suicide, listen to what they say, and bring issues out into the open may be the first time in a person’s life that this has happened. Being accepting and non-judgmental is important and so is discussing suicide openly.