By Russell Holloway
Christian Counseling Finder Co-founder
Suicide is an incredibly difficult and painful experience for survivors. Each year more than 30,000 individuals in the United States complete a suicide. As a counselor I think about how much heartache for friends and family members that represents. I’ve seen survivors in my office, and their sorrow is persistent and powerful.
There is debate among counselors on what can lead a person to want to end their life. As a licensed counselor in private practice it is my observation that deep down almost every person struggling with the thought of suicide really wants to live. When people are hurting they are not trying to escape life; they are trying to escape pain and hopelessness. It is hard for them to envision a future without pain and without being a burden on the people around them. Suicidal people do not want to die, they want their pain to end.
It is worth reviewing a few things we can all do to help loved ones struggling with thoughts of suicide. Listed below are five things you can do to help.
Take Non-lethal Suicide Attempts Seriously
It is common for people to think that an individual threatening suicide is just seeking attention, especially if the individual attempts a non-lethal suicide, one that is unlikely to lead to death. Suicide attempts that are unlikely to cause death are sometimes called practice suicides, and might be warm-up attempts for the real thing.
People are born with a powerful, innate drive to stay alive. In order to overcome their natural reflex to stay alive suicidal individuals engage in practice suicides. So, if someone you know verbally threatens suicide or engages in a non-lethal suicide attempt, do not dismiss their behavior, take it seriousl
Connect The Individual With Professional Help Immediately
If a friend or family member mentions suicide as a way to escape a painful situation, connect them to a professional immediately. Pick up the phone with them by your side and make sure they schedule an appointment with a counselor or medical professional. If you are not sure how serious the immediate situation might be, do not be afraid to call the police and ask them to do a wellness check on your friend or family member. Police officers are trained to evaluate a person’s risk of suicide, and they are happy to go to the person’s location and offer assistance.
Stay With The Individual Until They Are Safe
If you are with a friend or family member who is actively considering suicide do not leave them alone. Stay with them until professional help arrives or until they can be driven to a place they are safe: Hospital Emergency Room, Fire Station, Police Station, or a crisis receiving facility of some kind.
Ask ‘The Question’
It feels unnatural the first time, but it is important to ask people you suspect to be suicidal if they want to end their life. It is best to ask this way: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Asking people if they want to hurt themselves is too nonspecific. An individual might be hiding the fact he or she intends to kill himself or herself in a way that does not hurt at all.
When should you ask the question? – If you are debating if you should ask the question or not, ask the question. The fact you are deliberating whether or not to ask the question means you should ask the question.
Remove Weapons And Other Means of Completing a Suicide
If someone is struggling with suicide ask them if you can take their handguns or other means of completing a suicide from their home. They often say ‘yes’ and are relieved to have those things out of their house.
Remember, people considering suicide are searching for a reason to push through the pain one more day, they need to be reassured they have the possibility of a meaningful future, and they need a reason to have hope.
Russell Holloway is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Daytona Beach Florida and Co-Founder of Christian Counseling Finder