Not Sure How to Talk to Someone Who has Suicidal Thoughts? Read this.

Honest. Safe. Actionable. Clear. Calm. Normal.

Don’t these words invoke a more positive feeling? As opposed to:

Embarrassing. Shameful. Awkward. Confusion. Fear. Loss of direction.

Which is what many people experience surrounding the conversation of suicidal thoughts, and the last thing we don’t want to see if them shutting us out when we want to provide support.

>> Approach the person as if they are normal (literally, like you)…because they really are, a human being. <<

By framing your questions with a non-judgmental attitude/tone, the person is likely to feel more comfortable/open to share or connect with you. 

If you aren’t sure what concerning signs to look out for before you start a conversation, read how to identify someone at risk.

Let’s take a look at example scripts, and how to tread the conversation:

  1. Be direct and show you care.

“Are you thinking about suicide?”

“Have you had recent thoughts about ending your life?”

“I really care about you and want to be here for you right now.”

  1. Listen to the ‘Why’ & Validate the Sense of Normalcy

Give them a chance to talk it out and normalize their thoughts. 

“Yea, suicidal thoughts can come up in anybody’s thoughts throughout life especially if we feel like there is no way out.”

“Your thoughts are telling you that you do not want to be in this situation right now.”

It is recommended to also discuss protective factors.

Although, you do not want to force your beliefs (such as they shouldn’t think about such things due to higher power, etc) on them, but rather have a calm and curious discussion about their support system. Explore options on support system where they sense belongings, identify their loved ones they really care about (including the furry animals)!

You are a worthy ____ {insert type of relationship here; mother, sister, boyfriend, partner, etc}, share me a few people who you really care about right now.

Would you like to make plans for next week to do {insert low-energy activity person likes}?

Would you like to to go {insert low-energy activity person likes} right now?

I know how much you adore Maxie the pup. Would you like go for a walk to the dog park together?

  1. Continue to normalize the situation and find help if they are in immediate danger.

For some situations, it might provoke anger, fear, or frustration. You might get worked up out of fear of losing them. They might say “I don’t care about anything and I know what you are trying to do. It is not going to work.” 

Never take things personal when this person is experiencing these thoughts, trying to manipulate the situation or projecting negative emotion (such as disappointments) or it is likely to prevent the situation from improving.

Try the following instead:

You are right. I do not know what you are going through right now. What I do know is that I will stay with you until you get a right kind of support.

There is a lot going on in your life right now and I want to be able to be there for you right now.

{Disclaimer: Call 911 if your love one refuses to engage with your conversation by appearing to be unsafe, and want to follow through with suicide thoughts.} 

Fact: Nobody wants to share that suicidal thoughts are normal, but they are, and they just come in different forms to all of us.

We can change the conversation and be part of the suicide dialogues without shame. 

This was written as a nod towards September, Suicide Prevention Month.

Please share this blog so we can continue to reframe the conversation.

Note: If you are experiencing thoughts right now and need to talk to someone: We absolutely can connect you to resources and referrals (SEE BELOW) as National Deaf Therapy is not a crisis company. 

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Text “TALK” to 741741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line.