Deaths by suicide, has become all too common as both celebrities that have achieved all that makes people deem them successful and common people alike are caught in the Web.
From designer Kate Spade to chef Anthony Bourdain, they all serve as tragic reminders that mental health issues don’t discriminate based on success. The fact is mental health problems can hide in plain sight, that the sufferers and even loved ones may be unable to detect.
There is a need for better dialogues regarding mental health and not just one that only occurs after public tragedies when it’s already too late. Suicide can be an ugly and uncomfortable topic to bring up. But it’s a conversation that needs to happen regularly.
Here are a number of ways to have a productive talk about suicide with your loved ones and why it’s important to not avoid it, whether they’re in crisis or not. One chat could just save a life.
Know That Anyone Can Self-harm
A lot of people believe that suicide and self-harm is a distressing topic that will likely never affect them, so they avoid discussing it. The best way to talk about suicide is openly and honestly.
People are often afraid of the word and they won’t bring it up. There is a preconceived notion of what they think about it and they believe it will never happen, so they don’t talk about it.
Talking About It Won’t Make Things Worse
Talking about suicide only helps the problem. It doesn’t exacerbate it. The most important thing is to have a caring conversation. Talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can increase hope and help someone on their journey to recovery.
Discuss Suicide Like Any Other Topic
Suicide should be treated with the same consideration as you would any other health problems. Whether someone struggles with a mental illness or engages in self-harm, or even for the person who does not, we need to be able to talk about suicide same way we will talk about diabetes.
Talk About Your Experiences
Talking about your problems and experiences may encourage others to do the same. And if you know someone is going through a difficult time, let them know you’re aware and you care.
You can start conversations with statements like, “What are you doing to get through this crisis?” or “You don’t seem like yourself lately, what’s going on?” They can really help matters.
Suicide is a complex issue caused by many factors like mental illness, relationship, substance use, physical health, job, financial and legal problems.
You can reach out to support friends, loved ones and others who are going through a tough life event or struggling with mental illness, just the same way as we do our friends and family who are struggling with a physical illness.
Listen When People Talk
It’s not only important to ask people to open up, it’s crucial to actively listen to what they’re saying and reflect that in your response. It is also important that you show them that you care genuinely.
If you really care, make sure they know that and don’t think that you are just asking without any real intent to listen and be helpful.
Ask Pointed Questions
It’s important to be straightforward with your friends or loved ones, especially if you think they are at risk. If someone does seem to be struggling, you can ask them if they having thoughts about self-harm.
If they are, you can ask whether there is a specific plan and if they are feeling like they might act on it. It is also useful to ask about what things might be making the person feel hopeful about the future.
Drop Your Bias
Debates about the validity of mental illnesses and their subsequent consequences aren’t productive. You should however leave all your biases behind when discussing a life-or-death topic.
When talking about suicide to someone who might be suicidal, leave your biases and moral beliefs about it elsewhere. This is not the time to preach to someone who is struggling with a disease that feels their life is in crisis.”
Never Downplay The Issue
Suicide is serious. When talking about it, make sure it is done just as seriously as any other conversation about an illness. Don’t deny that mental illnesses are real, that they hurt, and don’t be judgmental about them.
If everyone is willing to start the conversation about suicide, we can begin to create a comprehensive system to saving more lives. Asking about suicide is not going to put a thought into someone’s head or lead them toward it. In reality, it can help reduce their anxiety, distress and potentially save their life.