Someone You Care About Is Thinking About Suicide
You can’t go to an airport or train station without encountering a “See something, say something” sign. What if you applied this mentality to recognizing and confronting the warning signs of suicide? It’s possible that your actions could make a big difference in the life of a survivor of sexual assault.
What are the warning signs of suicide?
The warning signs of suicide aren’t always obvious. You don’t have to commit these warning signs to memory to make a difference. Simply noticing changes in behavior can be enough to start a lifesaving conversation. A survivor considering suicide might:
- Stop doing activities that they usually enjoy
- Start pulling away from people that they are close to
- Give away treasured possessions
- Start preparing for death, which might mean making a will and taking care of taxes or legal issues
- Obtain the means to commit suicide, such as stockpiling pills or buying a gun
- Talk about death more than usual
- Talk about suicide directly
- Talk about suicide indirectly
- Make comments like, “Things would be better if I wasn’t here,” “I just wish I could die,” or “I just want to go to sleep and never wake
What can I do to help?
Just listen. A survivor of sexual assault that is considering suicide likely has a lot on their mind—a lot they haven’t shared yet. Sometimes simply listening to these thoughts can be enough to take the immediate edge off. Let your survivor talk freely, and try not to interrupt.
Ask directly. If you’re comfortable with the survivor, you can ask them directly, “Are you thinking about suicide?” It can be a hard question for a survivor to answer. If they say yes, ask if they have what they need to commit suicide. For example, if they say that they are planning to overdose on pills, ask if they have the pills.
Take them seriously and avoid judging. Believe them and take their suicidal thoughts seriously. It’s difficult for survivors with suicidal thoughts to open up about these tough topics. Try to respond without judgment by avoiding phrases that downplay their claims like:
- “Things can’t be that bad.”
- “You wouldn’t really do that.”
- “I don’t get it. You seem fine most of the time.”
- 911. If you believe the survivor is in immediate danger, call 911 or take them to a local emergency room. Calling for medical help takes courage. Once you’ve gotten the survivor to a safe place, a medical professional can give them they care they need.
- Someone you trust. Do you know a friend or relative of the survivor who you can talk to? Maybe it’s their partner or boss. Having someone else in your corner who cares about the survivor can help you take the next steps.
- Someone you can talk to anonymously. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know or aren’t sure what to do next, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.TALK (8255). Your call will be confidential, and they can help you take the right steps to protect the survivor.
This is a lot for me to handle.
Hearing that someone you care about is considering suicide can be difficult to process. You’ve done a great thing for them by listening, but it’s important to be good to yourself too.
Learn more about self-care for the supporters of survivors.
For help from someone who understands what you’re going through, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org .