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How to help a suicidal friend


HAVING a friend who you believe to be considering suicide is not to be taken lightly. Being suicidal is a temporary state that appears as an answer to severe depression, and the act of taking one’s own life is preventable when the correct measures are taken. As a friend, you can potentially save a life by paying attention to warning signs of suicide (in addition to the ones you already know about), making your friend feel supported, and knowing when and how to get outside help. If your friend is in immediate danger call emergency services, to talk to professionals and access necessary resources.

Spot patterns of suicidal thought: The most important part of prevention is recognition of warning signs. Suicidal thoughts usually include two or more of the following patterns: Frequent dwelling on a thought obsessively.

Believing that there is no hope, and no way to end the pain other than committing suicide. Viewing life as meaningless, or out of control. Feeling as though one’s brain is in a fog that makes concentration difficult

Recognise suicidal emotions: Many emotional changes accompany suicidal thought, and the following changes are common warning signs: Extreme mood swings. Feelings of loneliness and isolation, even in the presence of others. Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt, self-hatred, and the sense that no one cares. Becoming sad, withdrawn, tired, apathetic, anxious, irritable, or prone to angry outbursts.

Watch for suggestive comments: Be alert to statements that echo the patterns of thoughts and feelings that accompany suicidality. The following are common to hear from a suicidal person: “Life isn’t worth living.”; “You would be better off without me.”;“Don’t worry, I won’t be around to deal with that.”; “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.”; “I just can’t deal with everything — what’s the point?”; “I’d be better off dead.”; “I feel like there is no way out;” and “I never should have been born”.

Be wary of sudden improvement in mood: Many people who go through with suicide do so when they appear to be feeling significantly better than they have been. You may be seeing the peaceful resoluteness of making the decision to end their life, and should take preventative steps immediately.

Notice unusual behaviour: You can observe many behavioural changes in suicidal individuals. If you see at least a few of the following, you may have cause for concern: Declining performance in school, work, or other activities (or occasionally the opposite, filling up time with extra duties and responsibilities).

Social isolation: Little or no interest in sex, friends, or previously enjoyable activities. Carelessness about personal welfare and deteriorating physical appearance. Alterations in either direction in sleeping or eating habits. Look for extremes like self-starvation, poor dietary management, or inattention to medical orders (especially in the elderly).Drastic changes to established routines. Lethargy and withdrawal.

Recognise signs of suicide planning: Having a plan already in place can mean that a successful attempt could happen soon. Watch for all of the following actions: Tying up loose ends (i.e, saying goodbye to loved ones, giving away valuable belongings, arranging finances).Making reckless or passive decisions about important things. Gathering the means to commit suicide, like pill bottles, medications, and weapons.

Talking to your suicidal friend

Set a comfortable scene: Talking about possible suicide can be a very tense subject, especially for your friend who may also have feelings of guilt and shame associated with her suffering. Initiate a conversation without the presence of distractions. Choose a relaxed and familiar environment if possible.

Broach the issue of suicide: The following are good questions that you can use to start the conversation:“How are you coping with what’s been happening in your life?“; “Do you ever feel like just giving up?”;“Do you think often about dying?” and “Are you considering hurting yourself?”

Speak clearly and openly: Be as specific as possible to avoid sounding accusatory. For example, instead of saying something like “You always talk about how impossible everything is”, try detailed observations like “I have noticed in the past few months that things you used to enjoy, like spending time with your friends, does not seem to improve your mood much.”

Stay on topic as best you can: Your friend might try to dismiss your concern by looking at you with confusion or making you feel silly for bringing it up. But, don’t be afraid to be persistent in your concern— especially in light of recognising warning signs.

Avoid stigmatising suicide: Keep an open mind that does not judge the friend’s feelings or decisions. You may think your friend is incorrect in their reasoning or that their situation is not bad enough that they should want to commit suicide. However, understand that you can’t fully understand.

The belief that suicide is selfish, crazy, or morally defective is widely circulated in our culture. Be aware that suicidality is the result of a treatable condition for which your friend is not at fault.

Stay away from statements that can hurt: It’s easy to think that we can help by offering our perspectives or opinion, but this isn’t always the case. Be sure to avoid the following responses:

Statements that dismiss feelings, like “things aren’t really that bad.”

Superficial comments that prompt feelings of shame and isolation, like “you have so much to live for,” or “think about how much your suicide will hurt your family and friends.”

Instead, show compassion by saying, “things must really be awful if you are feeling that way.”

Listen empathically: Let your talk be an opportunity for your friend to feel loved and supported. Try as best you can to non-judgmentally listen to your friend, putting yourself in her shoes. This will help you accept her feelings with warm, personal understanding. Make eye contact and use body language to show that you are really there to listen.

Let her talk for as long as she needs: Even if you can think of many words of encouragement or reasons why she should cheer up, hold off. Create space for your friend to express herself without cutting in to give your own opinion. — wikihow

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