Your close friend tells you that they are suicidal. You know them well. They look ok. Yeah, yeah, they have had it pretty rough recently. Or even everything appears good on the outside.
What should you do? Ignore what they just told you and hope they were only joking? How to help someone with suicidal thoughts is an all important topic!
Depending on whether it is an emergency or not, take these steps to prevent suicide as applicable.
##1 Do not ignore or casually think they are joking.
They may well not be. Even if they are joking and laughing, or appear to have a cheerful disposition, do not quickly brush it off. It may be a real cry for help. They don’t need to look or act crazy so don’t look for these as obvious signs.
##2 If the situation looks threatening to themselves or others, ring emergency immediately
##3 Remove any potential hazards or ring emergency
This can be knives, bottles, pills. Are they standing at a place where they could jump or do something that could be nasty?
##4 You can talk to the person concerned.
Talking through their issues can be all that a person needs. It helps them not feel isolated. Give them the opportunity to vent if you can handle it, else go to the next point.
##5 Listen to what they are saying whether you think it is trivial or not
Do not pass judgement or try and make them or their situation insignificant. Offer hope. Reassure. Hope comes in Bible verses too!
##6 Promise confidentiality but do not be sworn to secrecy.
You may need to get help and that requires telling someone so do not be sworn to secrecy or make vows that you may have to break in order to save their lives!
##7 Encourage them to ring the hotline for (further) help or talk to a trusted person who can help them e.g. pastor or counsellor
Tell a responsible person like a pastor or a doctor. If you are seriously concerned, ring the crisis or suicide hotline yourself. We have compiled a suicide hotline from countries around the world. Hotlines will keep you confidential if you wish, and will try to reach the person concerned. This is essential to help them. They may want their suicidal tendencies kept secret but that can be a very heavy burden on you. You need professional/spiritual guidance immediately. This is key especially if the person is in real danger.
##8 Are they on medication?
Find out what medication they may be on. What are the side effects? Discuss this with their doctor or ask them to do so. The drugs may be affecting them in a negative manner that may be causing them to act out of character.
##9 Follow up on medication
If any medication is prescribed, see how they are doing. See how they are coping. Are there any further risk factors like alcohol, recreational drugs, mental illness like depression?
##10 Follow up on safety
Put a safety plan in plan with them or their caregiver or family. Take note of the hotline number for where you live.
##11 Follow up, follow up, follow up – Offer help
They may be feeling overwhelmed by the weight of their challenges. Sometimes a helping hand is all they need.
As always, as Christians pray and continue to pray for the individual!
Act/respond very quickly if you think the individual is in real danger to themselves. Do not delay. Life is precious.
Get the book, Meditations and Confessions for People challenged with Mental Illness by E. Onah. This book helps encourages positive thoughts and has some wonderful uplifting thoughts to meditate and speak to yourself.