Suicide is one of the most difficult topics we confront in our lives. It is a highly complex and distressing issue that often, we’d rather never have to think about, let alone face. That said, it is vital to understand what action you can take if someone you know threatens suicide. 

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Understanding Depression and Suicide

One in ten American adults — over 18 million people — suffer from depression in any given year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those aged between 10 and 34, and the fourth leading cause of death for those aged between 35 and 44. 

Not everyone who is depressed is contemplating suicide, and not everyone who commits suicide shows signs of depression. But knowing what to do in the event that a loved one expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions may be the very thing that prevents it from happening. 

Suicidal thoughts can occur when a person feels hopeless about their situation. They may feel trapped, as though there’s “no way out”, or like they will never be able to find a pathway out of their situation or how they’re feeling. 

If someone expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions, it’s important to remain calm and focused, with the intention of keeping a channel of communication open. Often, when a person chooses to divulge their suicidal thoughts or intentions to someone and share how they are feeling, it is a cry for help. They consciously or unconsciously trust that the person they are speaking to can or will help them, or find them the assistance they need. 

This isn’t to say that the responsibility for their wellbeing lies entirely with you; rather, it’s important to view the conversation as a signal that the person may be ready for external support. That support is best provided by a trained and licensed professional therapist.

If Someone Has Told You They’re Contemplating Suicide, There Are a Number of Things You Should Do

1. Don’t panic.

As mentioned, it’s important to remain calm, present, and focus in the conversation. You can say “Thank you for sharing this with me. I’m ready to listen to how you’re feeling.”

2. Encourage them to share their thoughts and listen actively. 

While it may be distressing to hear what they have to say, allowing the person to share the circumstances and emotions that have led them to their suicidal thoughts is an important step. Ask open-ended questions to prompt further conversation (“Can you tell me more about what’s led you to these thoughts?”) and engage in active listening to show that you are invested (“I’m hearing that this situation is making you feel as though things will never get better.”). 

3. Demonstrate empathy and take the issue seriously.

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Showing empathy is a crucial aspect of talking to someone who is thinking of committing suicide. In most cases, the person has likely been feeling as though no one could possibly understand. They likely feel isolated and as though there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Demonstrating empathy, and that you are taking their situation seriously, validates their feelings and experience (“I can see why you feel the way you do”, or “It must be terrible for you to feel this way”.) 

4. Don’t leave them alone. 

Where possible, stay with the person until you’re able to contact a professional, such as a therapist in Sacramento, CA who can help.

5. Offer some ways they can get the help they need. 

You can find the number for the mental health or suicide prevention hotline, or call their doctor or therapist. If the person insists that they don’t need or want help, you can gently let them know that you’re obligated to do so, because you’re concerned for their wellbeing and care about them deeply.

6. Take care of yourself. 

Having conversations like these can be extremely difficult. It’s important for you to care for your own mental and emotional wellbeing. Acknowledge any emotions that arise as a result of the conversation, such as fear, pain, anger, guilt, or sadness. Speak to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist about your experience, and put a plan in place to manage your own mental health moving forward.

Begin Depression Treatment in the Sacramento Area:

If you are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, you may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, our team of therapists can help you can find enthusiasm, hope, and joy again. You don’t just have to cope with depression but you can overcome depression. To begin counseling in Fair Oaks, CA, Roseville, CA, or online therapy in California, please follow these steps:

Other Services offered at The Relationship Therapy Center in California:

In addition to depression treatment, Our Sacramento area counseling clinics located in Roseville and Fair Oaks, CA are pleased to offer a variety of mental health services. Our couples services include: Couples Counseling, Counseling after infidelity, sex therapy, co-parent counseling, family therapy, divorce counseling, intensive couples retreats, and premarital counseling. Our individual therapy services include anxiety treatment, therapy for children, teen therapy, depression treatment, codependency counseling and individual relationship counseling. Our therapists offer online counseling in California to treat a variety of mental health concerns. Please reach out to our Sacramento area therapy office to learn more about the many ways we can help you or your loved ones.