I woke up this morning to a message about the suicide of a far-distant cousin and I thought, “What do you say to someone suicidal?” This comes only days after the 1-year-anniversary of my brother’s last attempt and the worry is fresh in my mind. I wish I could say suicide is something foreign to me, but like most, it’s something almost everyone can relate to in today’s day and age.
It should go without saying that there are two types of suicidal people. There are people who are clinically depressed (disease) and people who are depressed as a result of a situation. The latter is a dose of depression, whereas the former is a disease that controls the emotions and brain of the sufferer.
My brother’s struggle with clinical depression is no secret. He lets me write openly about it in hopes of helping someone out there, but today I started to wonder, what do you say to someone suicidal? For starters, I hate calling people suicidal. I don’t believe people should be labeled as such because there’s something else that has made them “suicidal.” For example, in most cases depression is the cause of suicidal thoughts and attempts.
Just last night I was talking with my brother about his clinical depression. Every year around this time, he starts to struggle beyond what he feels is manageable. Call it the Winter Blues or call it something else, but it is what it is. There’s often no rhyme or reason for depression to come flooding in. That’s what makes it so unbearable. People can’t figure out why they feel the way they do – they just do. Without a reason, there’s no cure – or so many sufferers think.
I can tell you a million things not to say to someone with suicidal thoughts, but very rarely do people answer the common question, “What do you say to someone suicidal?” At first, I couldn’t even come up with anything good or of value. Like many of you, I’ve told several people, my brother included, to change something; to increase depression medication; to work out more; to meditate – to do all this other nonsense that really doesn’t get through the thick fog of their depressed brain.
So, what do you say to someone who is suicidal?
I’m not sure if there really is an answer to that. If they’re far in the deep end, some statements won’t do anything for them. They’ve become so numb from the pain that hearing anything won’t do justice. They just want to leave this world so they can escape the pain. However, there are some things you can say to help a depressed soul or to encourage someone with suicidal thoughts to hold on just a little bit longer.
1. “You don’t have to feel this way.”
The thing with clinical depression is that it takes control of a person. There doesn’t have to be a reason for the depression, the depression is just there. Often, this leaves people feeling hopeless. As such, it’s important to remind them that they don’t have to feel this way. We live in a world where there are many forms of treatment for mental illness, and suffering is something that can be eliminated.
2. “You are not alone.”
When someone is suffering so deeply with depression, sometimes all they need to hear is, “You are not alone”. Don’t go into your problems in an effort to relate to them, or tell them about your neighbour’s sister’s teacher’s child who also has depression. Just let them know they’re not alone and that you’re there for them.
3. “I love you.”
Of course, you wouldn’t say this if you didn’t mean it. But if you do mean it, by all means tell them how much you love them.
4. “I’m here for you.”
People often say, “I’m here for you,” but they often fail to be. For example, when it’s 4A.M. and you have to be awake for work in three hours, are you going to be there for that person? Well you should be. No, you need to be. Don’t just tell your loved one suffering from depression that you’re there for them. Show them. Let them know that if they’re at the end of the rope, no matter what time, you’ll be there. The worst thing you can do is say you’re there for them, and then not be because of your own selfish needs.
5. “The way you’re feeling will change.”
Often, people suffering from depression feel like depression is who they are. They’re so used to feeling depressed that they believe feeling any other way is impossible. It’s important to remind people suffering from depression that the way they’re feeling will change if they allow it. It might take therapy or medication, an online self love course or something more drastic, but they don’t have to go on living the way they’re feeling.
6. “When you want to give up, tell yourself to hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can do – just hold off.”
Just wait. Just tell them to wait. This has been helpful in many situations that I’ve been in, situations where my brother has called to say goodbye and I told him just to wait. That I’m coming and I’ll be there and he just needs to hold on. And for that, I believe this example of things to say to someone with suicidal thoughts is a life saver.
7. “You are important to me.”
They may not feel important to themselves at this given time, but if they’re important to you – remind them of this. Sometimes, you just need to give someone suffering from depression a reason to hold on.
8. “What can I do to help you?”
Sometimes all they need is a hug, someone to talk to, someone to keep them company – just someone. Be that someone by learning what they need to overcome this awful hurdle.
9. “You are not crazy.”
If you’ve been wondering, “What do you say to someone suicidal?” this is it. Society has taught us to feel bad about not feeling good. Many people suffering from depression feel crazy, or f**ked up because of that. Remind your loved one that they are not crazy. It’s okay to not be okay.
10. “Let’s find the help you need together.”
With this simple sentence, you’re reassuring your loved one that you’re there for them, that they don’t have to feel this way, and that you’re going to help them get through this. But don’t just say it. You have to follow through with it. Find them free online resources or courses, such as Destroy Depression or End Your Depression.
What do you say to someone suicidal? I’m not sure if there is anything you can say that will change the way they’re feeling, but it can keep them here on this earth long enough to get them the help they need. More importantly, it’s about the things you should never say to someone suicidal, and I will write about that in a new blog post soon!
National Crisis Hotlines
Kids Help Phone
This post was originally published on Anxiety Gone.