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How to Help Someone Having Suicidal Thoughts?

Dr. Mehak Nagpal 96% (101 ratings)
MD - Psychiatry
Psychiatrist, Delhi  •  11 years experience
How to Help Someone Having Suicidal Thoughts?

Although there is no single reason why someone may have suicidal tendencies, certain things can increase the risk. An individual is more likely to have suicidal thoughts if he has a mental health condition like depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The vulnerability also increases in cases of alcoholism, drug abuse or poor job security. It may not be possible to prevent suicidal thoughts, but keeping one's mind healthy with regular exercise, healthy eating and maintaining friendships can help one deal better with stress. 

It can be very upsetting, when someone says things which sound as if the person is considering suicide. One may not be sure what to do to help,  as to whether one should take talk of suicide seriously or if intervention might make the situation worse. Taking action is always the best choice. One of the best things one can do if someone is feeling suicidal is to encourage them to talk about their feelings and to listen to what they say. One can provide the best help by listening and not being judgemental. If the person has been diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression, one can take advice from his care team. 

One should avoid offering solutions. While listening, do not give in to the temptation of providing a solution. One should ask open ended questions so that the person remains in control and expresses his feelings. On the contrary, it will offer an opportunity to talk about feelings, which may reduce the risk of acting on suicidal feelings. Ensure that the person is not left on his own, if there is immediate danger. One cannot always tell when a loved one or friend is considering suicide, so one must be on the lookout for warning signs. The warning signs could be talking about suicide, buying or stocking pills, withdrawing from social life, increase in alcohol or drugs, personality changes like severely agitated and saying goodbye to people as if seeing them for the last time. It is also important that one does not make judgements about how a person is thinking or behaving. 

After listening to their feelings, one may feel that certain aspects of their thinking and behaviour are making their problems worse. But pointing this out will not be particularly helpful to them. Reassurance, respect and support will only help someone during these difficult periods. As a final note, one must realise that talking to someone about their feelings is not long lasting and can help them feel safe and secure temporarily. A professional help can provide the long-term support to help someone overcome their suicidal tendencies. That will the person to deal with the primary issues behind someone's suicidal thoughts, besides offering advice and support.

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