Loved One Threats of Suicide

September 5-11 is National Suicide Prevention week—it might be good time to review a few things regarding those who may be vulnerable to thoughts, threats, or ideations of suicide…

 

Although sometimes threats of suicide are manipulation when hurled at a family member or loved one, especially if attached to a demand…we should take all signs of suicidal behavior seriously.

 

If a loved one says they’re thinking of suicide or behaves in a way that makes you think the person may be suicidal, don’t play it down or ignore the situation. Many people who kill themselves have expressed the intention at some point. You may worry that you’re overreacting, but the safety of the loved one is most important. Don’t worry about straining the relationship when someone’s life is at stake.

It’s important to not allow the fear of backlash to compel decisions.

Remember – you’re not responsible for preventing someone from taking their own life — but your intervention may help the person see that other options are available to stay safe and get treatment.

 

Offering support

 

If you believe someone is thinking about suicide, professional help is needed, even if suicide isn’t an immediate danger.

A few things you can do:

  • Encourage the person to call a suicide helpline number.  Someone in this situation can call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or use the Lifeline Chat. Veterans or service members can call 988 and then press “1,” or text 838355, or chat online. The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has a Spanish language phone line at 1-888-628-9454 (toll-free).
  • Encourage the person to seek treatment. A suicidal or severely depressed person may not have the energy or motivation to find help. If the person doesn’t want to consult a doctor or mental health provider, suggest finding help from a support group, crisis center, faith community, mentor or other trusted person.
  • Offer to help the person take steps to get assistance and support. For example, you can research treatment options, make phone calls, review insurance benefit information, or even offer to assist with transportation to a meeting or appointment.
  • Encourage the person to communicate. Someone suicidal may be tempted to bottle up feelings because the person feels ashamed, guilty, or embarrassed. Be supportive and understanding and express opinions without placing blame. Listen attentively and avoid interrupting.

Be respectful and acknowledge the person’s feelings.

Don’t try to talk people out of their feelings or express shock.

Remember, even though someone who’s suicidal isn’t thinking logically, the emotions are real. Not respecting how the person feels can shut down communication.

People struggling with depression, mood or personality disorders sometimes get caught in Vertical ThinkingIt’s not helpful to argue against it, this is when motivational interviewing and question asking can be profoundly effective.

  • Don’t be patronizing or judgmental. For example, don’t tell someone, “Things could be worse, look on the bright side.” or “You have everything to live for.” Instead, ask questions such as, “What’s causing you to feel so bad?” “What would make you feel better?” or “What might help?”
  • Never promise to keep someone’s suicidal feelings a secret. Be understanding but explain that you may not be able to keep such a promise if you think the person’s life is in danger.
  • Offer reassurance that things can get better. When someone is suicidal, it seems as if nothing will make things better. Reassure the person that with appropriate support and treatment, other ways of coping can be developed, and the person can feel better about life again.
  • Encourage the person to avoid alcohol and drug use. Using drugs or alcohol may seem to ease the painful feelings, but ultimately it makes things worse — it can lead to reckless behavior or feeling more depressed. If the person can’t quit on their own, offer contact information for treatment.

Many law enforcement agencies now have crisis officers available. If someone is threatening suicide, sending a crisis officer to their home or location puts the burden into the hands of professionals, can often interrupt a suicidal plan, and is also a helpful boundary to set in that it allows them to know you will take it seriously, not give in to demands or engage in conflict and manipulation, but will respond responsibly.

Emotions become charged and conversations can get heated in these situations, it’s helpful to know we can operate with wisdom, strength, self-respect and kindness all at once.  Tomorrow is not a promise for any of us, grasping that reality puts things in broader perspective and is our reminder to give regard to our words; any conversation could be one we’ll remember…we are wise to say things to our loved ones that are grounded in healthy truth and wisdom, but also what we can live with versus live to regret.

Breathe and take it one day at a time, one moment at a time if you need to.

Seek support for yourself as well and remember…you don’t have to navigate or cope alone—we’re all in this together.

In love, strength, and hope,

Annie

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” ~Christopher Reeve

Sources: AnnieHighwater…Mayoclinic.com…spruce.com…psychcentral…studyacademy.com…psychology today …samhsa…

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Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache

Host of:  The Unhooked Podcast

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For information, comfort, encouragement and support:

Codependents Anonymous

Parent Support – TAPU

Family Recovery Support

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