Remember that suicidal people are not in a rational state of mind. Trying to reason with a suicidal person will get you nowhere. You will not be able to reason a suicidal person out of suicide.
And that’s okay. No one is rational in the face of that kind of pain. The pain a suicidal person feels is agonizing. It’s suffocating, the same way the vast emptiness of space is suffocating. So don’t try to reason them out of it. Chances are, they already know it’s irrational.
Tell them it’s all right that they feel this way, even though it is irrational. Tell them you’re sorry they’re in so much pain that they can’t think clearly. Tell them they don’t need to worry about thinking clearly just yet and that you’re here to help.
Whatever your relationship to the person, remember that their suicidal feelings are not your fault. You didn’t cause their depression. Depression is in the brain of the sufferer, not your words. They didn’t choose to talk to you about their depression as an accusation.
Quite the opposite. They chose to talk to you about their depression because they think you can help. They probably see you as one of the few forces for good in their life.
Tell them that they did the right thing coming to talk to you. Being a good listener shows them that you are, in fact, a good thing in their life. Assure them that you are committed to staying a good thing in their life.
Remember that suicidal people are not selfish. Sometimes people describe suicidal behavior as attention-seeking. Andt usually is (to some degree) — but this is a good thing. Suicidal people are in trouble and need help. It is not selfish to ask for help when you need help. Don’t hesitate to give it to them.
Suicidal people are usually the opposite of selfish. They are so selfless that they do not want to ask for even a small amount of help, even when they need it desperately. Suicidal people often feel guilty for seeking help. They often feel ashamed of their feelings, which is why they do not get help sooner. It took courage for them to reach out to you. Reward their courage with as much attention as they want.
Reassure them that you are not judging them. Tell them that you think they are very strong, and that you are proud of them for coming to talk to you. Show them that you are happy to give them as much attention as they want.
Remember that suicidal people want to live. The reason they are suicidal is that they do not have the tools they need to cope with their pain. They are suicidal because they see no way out of the pain. If they did, they would not be suicidal.
Suicidal people are looking for help dealing with their feelings. While you can’t make their problems go away, you can help by being there for them. This gives them the strength they need to deal with their pain.
Tell them that you are right here beside them, whatever they are feeling. Tell them that you are here to help with the weight, however possible. Ask them if there is a specific way you can help them carry the weight.
Remember that suicidal people feel alone. It doesn’t help that depression is routinely stigmatized in America and around the world. When suicidal people ask for help, they are often met with mockery and dismissal. This makes suicidal people feel even worse.
Suicidal people know this. It takes courage for them to ask for help. When suicidal people approach you, the thought that you will mock or dismiss them terrifies them. Even if you don’t, they might worry that you will have one or two conversations with them, and then forget all about it. Helping a suicidal person is not as easy as having one or two conversations. It is an ongoing commitment.
Tell them you are willing to help them as long as they need. Tell them that you can check up on them as often as they want. Ask them if there is a certain way they would like you to check up on them, like a text every day or a call once a week.