In recent times, we have seen a change in our society with many people not treating mental health issues as a taboo and opening up about their personal struggles. Due to this shift in approach, a number of people have started sharing their stories and struggles with suicidal thoughts.
Suicidal thoughts can occur due to various reasons:
- Traumatic childhood experiences that may include physical or emotional abuse
- Death of a loved one
- Drastic changes in life such as ending of a relationship or failure in performing some task
- Substance abuse
- Financial issues
- Any form of trauma that has a deep hold
- Mental conditions such as depression, schizophrenia or personality disorder
- Being in prolonged physical pain due to bodily sickness
- Having body image issues, anxiety issues or even confidence issues
- Feeling alone in the world with no hope and no desire to live for
These thoughts can make a person feel as if:
- They are stuck in a very difficult situation which is impossible to get out of.
- They feel very restricted and bounded by the situation that they are in.
- They feel like it is the only way to find peace.
- They are in a situation with unbearable pain and see suicide as a way out.
- They feel helpless, hopeless and drowned in melancholy.
These feeling are mostly powered by negative thoughts such as, “I am a burden on my friends and family”, “I can never be better”, “I have let ‘them’ down”, “I am a failure and I don’t deserve this life”, “Things will never get better and I am never going to find a way out”, “Nobody needs me, nobody cares about me”, etc. Most of the time, these thoughts and feelings tend to cloud the person’s mind densely which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions.
People who are struggling with such thoughts also show many signs and changes that may be huge or minuscule. If you suspect or know someone who is having such thoughts, it is important to observe changes in their appetite, sleep cycle, behaviour, mood, etc.
What should you say to someone who you think or know is having suicidal thoughts?
It is quite possible that most of us don’t know what to say to a person who is having such thoughts or even where to begin. In case you are not sure if someone is feeling suicidal, you can start by talking to them around the topic and observe them. Let them know that you are there for them and it’s okay to open up to you. Try to be understanding and empathetic, and not judgmental.
Here are few tips that can help you formulate an empathetic conversation:
- Try telling them that you are worried about them and that you are there for them. Many people who are struggling from such thoughts feel that others are not taking them seriously and don’t understand them. Show them that you see the changes, and that you are ready to hear them out and help them.
- Try to side with the idea of seeking help from a therapist or a counsellor. If the person is not already seeking help from a professional, try to make them comfortable with that notion. In case they are already in therapy, talk to them about it in a friendly manner. Tell them that it’s okay. The recovery will take time but you’re glad to hear that they’ve begun their journey to self-betterment.
- Try to spend time with that person. This can make them feel less lonely and more heard.
- Small gestures can go a long way. Try to show love and care to that person in the form of small gestures. For example, bring them a cup of tea or coffee, make them a meal or get them a plant, etc. These things will make them feel more and more loved.
- If the person whom you suspect of having suicidal thoughts hasn’t reached out to you, try to reach out to them on your own. Don’t barge-in in a rude way; make a respectful way in order to show them that you respect them and are willing to hear them out.
- Be empathetic but don’t disregard their feelings by saying, “I know how you feel” because no one knows what a person is feeling in such a situation as different people react and feel differently. Saying that will only be insulting and hurtful for the other person.
- If you don’t know what to say, just tell them that you don’t want to lose them and how much they mean to you. Tell them that you have no idea what to say but you are willing to be there for them because you love and care about them.
It is important to remember that a person with such a thought process is in a very difficult situation. You should also know that there are few things that you should never say to a suicidal person as it can feel judgmental and not empathetic at all:
- “It is all in your mind”
- “You need to go out more and meet new people”
- “What are you sad about? I don’t get it”
- “Snap out of it, you have no reason for being this way”
- “Everything will be okay, just start working out”
- “Change your diet, it worked for me”
- “You need to stop over thinking”
Suicide prevention helplines:
- Aasra (Mumbai) 022-27546669
- Sneha (Chennai) 044-24640050,
- Sumaitri (Delhi) 011-23389090
- Cooj (Goa) 0832- 2252525
- Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 065-76453841
- Pratheeksha (Kochi) 048-42448830
- Maithri (Kochi) 0484-2540530
- Roshni (Hyderabad) 040-66202000,
- Lifeline 033-64643267 (Kolkata).
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