How to Help a Loved One Who May Be Suicidal


The recent suicides by celebrities Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have brought into our awareness that suicide can affect anyone. Statistics show that suicide rates are rising dramatically. People are being urged to reach out if they need help but if someone reaches out to you, would you know what to do? Here is some specific and practical information for people in our local community:

Should you intervene?

Look for the most common warning signs:

  • Has their behavior changed in dangerous or concerning ways – increased alcohol or drug use, exhibiting risky behavior
  • Are they talking about death or suicide
  • Are they isolating from friends and family
  • Are they seeking closure – giving away things, preparing wills, making amends, or saying goodbyes
  • Have they experienced a loss or change in their lives, for example, have they lost an important relationship or a job, did they experience a change in their health
  • Have they attempted suicide before or has anyone in their family or circle of friends attempted suicide.

Don’t be afraid to talk about suicide. Speaking of suicide does not give someone the idea to commit suicide.

  • Ask if they have a Plan for how they will do it.
  • Ask if they have the Means to carry out that plan.
  • Ask them about their Motivation – how will suicide help.
  • Finally, ask about their Resistance – ask what stops them. Often when you start talking to people about why they don’t want to commit suicide, you can help them start to seek help.
  • Tell them you cannot stop them but let them know how you feel about them dying. Let them know how it will impact you and others, how important they are to others. Don’t try to dissuade them from their feelings and thoughts but share with them how you feel about them and their situation.
  • Don’t keep it secret – Sometimes we think we are protecting our friends by not telling others what is happening but usually we are protecting the problem and hurting our friend. Get support for them and for you by talking about it and encouraging them to talk about it with supportive people.
  • Ask if they have a counselor – and encourage them to call and get an emergency visit. If that’s not possible, then try to get them to an emergency evaluation center or contact the authorities.
  • Ask if they are willing to let you drive them to speak to a professional. Getting them to a professional is key to starting them on the road to recovery. You can take them for an evaluation at a mental health hospital such as Ridgeview Institute (3955 S Cobb Drive, Smyrna, 844-350-8800), to the Cobb Behavioral Crisis Center (1755 County Services Parkway, 404-794-4857), or to your nearest hospital emergency room.
  • If you believe they are a danger to themselves and they will not cooperate with you, you may have to involve law enforcement. Go to Cobb County Mental Health (1650 County Services Parkway is the main office but call 770-422-0202 for referral to your closest location ) and ask to complete an Affidavit attesting to your concerns. You will have to take this before a judge and the sheriff will be called to pick them up for evaluation.

 

People are often afraid of bringing up the topic of mental health treatment and worry about offending. Here are some good conversation starters:

  • I have noticed some changes lately in your behavior and I’m concerned you may be struggling with something…
  • I am wondering how you’ve been doing
  • I know you’re really trying hard to deal with (whatever the problem is) and I’m wondering if you might need to get outside help…

Remember, you may regret speaking up if you’re wrong and your friend becomes upset but not nearly as much as you’ll regret not speaking up if you’re right.