Hello, this blog post may be a heavy one, and even more substantial if it’s been something you had to deal with yourself. First, I should start with, if you, or someone you know, is contemplating suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
In the last two months alone, I have had two friends that had to deal with this. I felt helpless when I first heard of their feelings and struggles in their life that has led them down a path. One of my two friends mentioned was contemplating suicide, and the other was an almost successful attempt at doing it.
As a friend, you care about them and their psychological and physical well being and just hearing that they think this way makes you, yourself shut down but then quickly realize that you need to step up and help! I am going to suggest four things to help you, help them.
The most important thing you can do is hear your friend out, listen to them, and make sure they feel that you are, in fact listening to them and hanging on their every word. Lending both ears to them with great attention and intention will make your friend feel important and that they genuinely matter to you. Doing this helps in two ways; first, it gives you time to process what it is they are saying and for you to handle and control your feelings as you hear them out. The second thing this does it allows you to process an appropriate response to what they are saying. Still, even if you don’t have anything good to say or add, just the fact that you are listening can be a huge burden that they bear, feel to them more manageable, if even so slightly. Don’t be afraid to say the word suicide; you can’t plant that in their head, trust me, they are already thinking it. Saying the word out loud makes it ok, or gives your friend permission to express how they feel more openly.
When your listening, listen with empathy and compassion. Don’t hear your friend and then react with shock or withdraw from them based on what they have said. You need to stay very calm and stoic. Be compassionate, lean into them, hold eye contact. Be sure to nod, or verbal feedback that you are hearing by saying, “I hear you!” You need to be genuine, don’t fake it, and don’t try to solve their problem, your most likely unable to solve their problem anyway. Doing this should help take some of that burden off of you, remember your goal here is to make sure they know that how they feel has been well understood by you. And when they have completed their sharing, express gratitude, and be appreciative that your friend in such a vulnerable state was able to share this with you and trust you with what they have just told you. Say, “Thank you for opening your heart to me.”
Listening will help, but they may still feel helpless and in need of more assistance. So before you leave your friend, please tell them of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that they can call anytime, seven days a week and 24 hours a day. The crisis workers are there to help, and you can even make the call with them. They are there to help and support both of you in this difficult time.