Perhaps it’s a friend. Perhaps it’s someone at your school, your church, your workplace. Perhaps it’s a family member. Many people deal with suicidal thoughts, and if we are worried about someone, we need to try to help.
And you can help.
No training needed. No special counseling degree required. You can help someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Engage in these 4 steps to help someone who might be considering suicide:
Have a conversation with them. Don’t avoid the topic. Tell them that you’re worried and ask them if they are thinking about suicide. Research shows that this will not plant the idea! Keep it private, but don’t promise to keep it a secret.
Be supportive and non-judgmental. Some parts of the conversation may be awkward or frightening. Pray for the Holy Spirit to lead you, and try to stay calm with deep breaths and allow yourself time to think. Be kind, but be direct. Don’t avoid words like “suicide.”
Help them identify ways to stay safe. Yes, they may need the help of a trained professional – a psychiatrist, emergency worker, or therapist. But you can help them identify action steps to avoid suicide, and you can alert their immediate family members who can help to monitor and support them. If they have a specific plan for suicide, call 911. Even if they don’t want you to.
Connect them with people and resources. It is helpful if this list is specific: Who will they call when feeling lonely? What small group can they join? Write down the number for some hotline supports (see below).
Resources that will be helpful
Scripture is God’s living voice, alive and active, convicting and comforting. Do you think He doesn’t speak about suicide? Think again. Check out 1 Kings 19 and see how God provides for the prophet Elijah when he is having suicidal desires. Pray through Psalm 42, wrestling with the question “Why are you so downcast, O my soul?”
But if someone is thinking about suicide, God has also provided practical, tangible supports around us. The three resources below are a great starting place:
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline provides 247 free, confidential support for people in distress, their loved ones, or professionals. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
- The Crisis Text Line provides 24/7 free texting support for those in crisis. Text HOME to 741741 or visit www.crisistextline.org.
- Here in South Carolina, you can utilize a free 24/7 statewide support for mental health crisis: the Department of Mental Health Community Crisis Response and Intervention Team. Just call 1-833-364-2274.
Above all? If you want to care for people, take talk of suicide seriously. Don’t shy away from the hard, dirty parts of life. Lean in and help.