Content Warning: This article discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation, call, text, or chat with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.
Living with suicidal ideation is terrifying. I have experienced suicidal ideation numerous times over the years, and frequently have to battle these thoughts on a daily basis. But no matter how terrifying it is for me, I can only imagine how terrifying it is for my loved ones who so desperately want to help, but don’t know how to. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can help protect your loved one who may be experiencing suicidal ideation. Here are four things that my loved ones have done for me when I have experienced suicidal ideation, and how they have helped to bring me closer, instead of making me pull away.
It is also important to understand some of the warning signs of suicidal ideation, and in my experience they have been as follows: irritability, sleeping throughout the day, insomnia at night, being unable to eat or drink, inability to take care of myself, inability to go to work or school, and being withdrawn from everyone. Everyone’s symptoms are different, but these are some warning signs you can look out for. And here’s what you can do to help:
- Asking “What can I do to help or make you feel better?”
This first tip is so important. While it may seem like a small thing, asking how you can help your loved one shows that you care about how they are feeling and while you may not understand, you are willing to try and understand what you can do to help. This opens a door, and so many times when I have been suicidal I have felt like I am in a bubble, but simply asking how a loved one can help makes me open up to them and feel like there is a way out of my head.
- Put away any sharp items or items that could be considered dangerous
This is especially important. When I am depressed, I frequently experience thoughts about harming myself, and if I have items around me that could be used in self-harm, I am more likely to use them. However, if these items are put away or are out of reach, I will seldom go out of my way to find objects that could be used to self-harm. Ensuring that your loved one is safe is extremely important, and I highly advise locking away items such as knives, razors, guns, lighters, toothpicks, and anything sharp that is within your loved one’s reach.
Like dangerous or sharp objects, medications are another safety issue when I am experiencing suicidal ideation. Even over the counter medications, such as Advil or Tylenol, can be a safety hazard, so it is important that you put these somewhere where your loved one will not be able to access them. If your loved one asks where any specific medication is, tell them that you are concerned about their safety and you would be happy to access the medication for them.
- Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers you the ability to chat with someone 24 hours a day either online or on the phone. They will help you find resources for your loved one and guide you on the best way to handle your loved one’s suspected suicidal ideation. My loved ones have often felt lost when I have experienced suicidal ideation, and calling the Lifeline helped them to find the resources they needed to be able to help me.
- Seek professional help
If your loved one has made any indication that they have a plan for suicide, tries to harm themselves, or if they are unable to go on with daily activities due to depression, then it is vital to seek professional help. My loved ones have taken me to the emergency room when they have been deeply concerned about my wellbeing, and it is through the emergency room that I have received the mental health treatment that I needed to ensure my safety. Your loved one might be willful when you let them know that you are concerned about their safety and would like to take them to the nearest mental health crisis center or emergency room, would reiterate your love for them and ensure them that you only want the best care for them and that you want them to feel better. I have been willful in the past when my loved ones have taken me to receive professional help but looking back, I am more than grateful that they cared enough to get me the help that I needed.
Try to remember that when your loved one is in suicidal ideation, they may say or do things that hurt you; however, try to understand that this is their illness speaking and not them. Their safety is important above all else, and ensuring they receive that safety may take some actions that are hard for you to complete.
All of the above tips are steps that my loved ones have done to help me, and I am more than grateful for the tough choices that they have made. While these are things that helped me, everyone is different. If you’re interested in helping someone else, check out the Lifeline’s BeThe1To Action Steps for supporting a loved one experiencing suicidal ideation. Your loved one will thank you one day, and your relationship will improve once your loved one realizes that you only did what you did because you love them and want the best for them. I wish you well, and stay strong!
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, know you are not alone. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7/365 at 988.