When a friend confides in you that they are having suicidal thoughts, you can feel helpless and distressed. How do you let them know you care about them and want to help? Here are some tips on how to talk about suicide so that your friend can tell that you are genuine and non-judgemental.
If your friend says something like:
Do take them seriously. There is no evidence to suggest that by asking a suicidal person if they are thinking about ending their life, you will actually put the idea in their head. On the contrary, it can be a relief for them to bring it out in the open.
Do ask like this: “Are you thinking of suicide?”
Don’t ask like this: “You’re not going to do something stupid, are you?”
Don’t respond saying:
Stay around. People rarely suicide when they have company. Do stay in touch. Even a daily text message can be a welcome sign that you matter to someone.
Openly enquire about how things are:
Rather than offer advice, show you have listened. Aim to get help. Let your friend know you won’t abandon them.
Doris Zagdanski is the Convenor of MyGriefAssist website. She is a leading figure in modern day grief and loss education. She conducts educational seminars for both professional and community audiences. She has written several books in this genre.