The most important thing you need to know about supporting a suicidal friend or family member is that it’s not your job to fix them. It’s not your job to give advice. It’s not your job to save them.
It is, however, your job to help them get professional help. And to be a safe place where they can come and feel listened to and supported in a loving way.
How to help a suicidal loved one
- It’s on you to make sure they get professional help. You need to silently appoint yourself their health advocate. “Silently”, because you don’t want them to feel like their not in charge of her life anymore. If you make them do things forcefully, they will resent you. They may even do the opposite out of spite. Right now, they need someone who is healthy to help them get professional help. It could be hard for them to do this themselves. They are dealing with an illness that affects their mood, body and energy levels.
- Educate yourself about suicide and depression. Learning will help you understand what your loved one is going through. If you’ve never felt suicidal or had major depression yourself, it’s impossible for you to fully relate. When you can’t relate, it’s hard to provide the right kind of support. So, read articles, books and talk to many other people. Call suicide prevention lines or health centers and get advice. When you understand what they’re going through it will translate. It will come out in your communicate. You’ll learn to ask the right questions and to take helpful actions. This will make them feel closer to you and safe in your relationship.
- Embrace community. Share with the people in your life what’s going on. When you feel comfortable and where appropriate, it’s okay to confide in others – friends, family members, co-workers – about what you are dealing with, with your loved one. You’ll find that people are generally willing to help. They may even share stories that will help you feel like you’re not alone. They may point you to resources. This is not the time for you to be strong. It’s not a time for you to keep things private. It’s not always easy to talk about suicide or depression, but when you do, you’ll find it affects more people then you ever thought.
- Get professional help for yourself. During this time you could be dealing with a lot of stress and confusion about what to do, among the normal things you have to deal with in your own life. Seek professional therapeutic help from a mental health professional. This could be a personal coach, a psychologist, a crisis prevention hotline, or an online forum.
- Learn your rights and her rights. When it comes to suicide and mental health there are specific rights given to family members. If your loved one is severely depressed and you can’t get them to get help you can enact specific rights. In Canada, it’s called a Form 2. A policeman will take them away and ensure they get immediate medical attention at a hospital. It’s tough love, and it could save a life.
- Don’t wait. Their life is in your hands and it’s a priority. Don’t think that it will get better. Don’t wait. Get in action now. If your loved ons has been depressed and/or suicidal for more than two weeks you need to know that this is a dangerous situation.