Almost inevitably, family members and friends are drawn into the painful world of suicide. In light of the numerous cases of suicide over the last month we think it would be helpful to give some guidelines for families and friends of those who struggle with suicidal ideation.
If a family member or friend is acutely suicidal, it may be necessary to take away their credit cards, car keys, and checkbooks and to be supportive but firm in getting them to an emergency room or walk-in clinic. If the person is violent, it may be necessary to call the police. These are difficult things to do but often essential.
The National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, a national patient-run advocacy and support group based in Chicago, makes the following specific recommendations to family members and friends who believe someone they know is in danger of committing suicide:
- Take your friend or family seriously.
- Stay calm, but don’t underreact.
- Involve other people. Don’t try to handle the crisis alone or jeopardize your own health or safety. Call 911 in necessary.
- Contact the person’s psychiatrist, therapist, crisis intervention team, doctor, or others who are trained to help.
- Express concern. Give concrete examples of what leads you to believe your friend (or family member) is close to suicide.
- Listen attentively. Maitain eye contact. Use body language such as moving close to the person or holding his or her hand, if it is appropriate.
- Ask direct questions. Find out if your friend (or family member) has a specific plan for suicide. Determine, if you can, what methode of suicide he or she is thinking about.
- Acknowledge the person’s feelings. Be empathetic, not judgmental. Do not relieve the person of responsibility for his or her actions.
- Reassure. Stress that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. Provide hope. Remind your friend or family member that there is help and things will get better.
- Do not promise confidentiality. You may need to speak to your loved one’s doctor in order to protect the person. Don’t make promises that would endanger your loved one’s life.
- If possible, don’t leave the person alone until you are sure they are in the hands of competent professionals.
There are several excellent advocacy and research organizations, many of which have patient and family support groups with suicide prevention and mental illness.
If you or someone you love is suicidal, we recommend contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 800-273-8255. Additional crisis and suicide hotlines are available in the category below, Crises and Suicide.
American Social Health Association: Sexually Transmitted Disease Hotline
CDC AIDS Information
AIDS Info: Treatment, Prevention and Research
National AIDS Hotline
Al-Anon for Families of Alcoholics
Alcohol and Drug Helpline
Alcohol Treatment Referral Hotline
Alcohol & Drug Abuse Hotline
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hopeline
Child Help USA National Child Abuse Hotline
CRISIS AND SUICIDE
Girls & Boys Town National Hotline
National Hopeline Network
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(800) 273-TALK (8255)
National Youth Crisis Hotline
(800) 442-HOPE (4673)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National US Child Abuse Hotline
American Association of Poison Control Centers
America Social Health: STD Hotline
Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention
Teen Help Adolescent Resources
Planned Parenthood Hotline
(800) 230-PLAN (230-7526)
RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT
Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)
National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse
Abuse Victim Hotline
National Runaway Switchboard
National Hotline for Missing & Exploited Children
Child Find of America
National Institute on Drug Abuse Hotline
National Help Line for Substance Abuse