How to Help Someone Who Is Feeling Suicidal

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About W.R.R.

W.R.R. is a survivor of 18 years of sexual abuse and torture. He started writing poetry at a very young age to escape the horrors of his life. His writing gives the reader a true glimpse into the psyche of a struggling survivor. He recently put his efforts into becoming an advocate, focusing on public awareness of the impact on survivors who endured incest, child sexual abuse, and human trafficking, as well as letting other survivors know that they are not alone. W.R.R. lives in the Houston area with a new family that love and support him on his healing journey every day. His hope is to write a book to share his story. His essays and poetry can be found at www.asashesscatter.com and he can be found at @AsAshesScatter on Twitter.

Comments

  1. You sated … “Today I read a no doubt well-meaning statement (not sure if it’s a quote to be officially attributed or not): “When you’re sad and want to die, remember people who are dying but want to live.” …… I would like to add that this statement, to a person who is serious about ending his life, may turn them to believe that perhaps their own death may be a sacrifice for a person who doesn’t want to die. Take my life so that another person may live. A person who is in the depth of depression will conjure up a lot of thoughts and justifications to go through with the act.

    Great article and I’m glad it was posted. I believe that an entire site could be devoted to this topic. I would also like to add a few things. One is to that take every comment from someone about suicidal thoughts seriously. Often times these passing comments are feelers to see if someone will respond. In the mind of the person making these comments, they may be looking for someone to respond and if there is none, it simply (in their mind) reinforces that no one cares.

    The other is that it’s important to know if a person has a “plan.” A plan is where they have actually laid out when where and how they would go through with it.

    Another is that unless you’re a professional, don’t think you can help this person alone. You may truly love and care for this person but you would be best situated to bring a professional into the picture. It’s important that the person trust you so that when you introduce them to professional help, he/she knows you’re not just passing the buck. Continue to support him/her.

    As was stated, people don’t wake up one day and decide that suicide is something that they want to do. Many will build a case in their own mind and once they start sliding down that slope, struggle with seeing reasons not to follow through but will find many reasons to follow through.

    Early signs, very important! Any changes in behaviors, mood swings, isolation etc. is something that you may want to address and when it comes to kids, don’t excuse them as simple “oh, they’re just going through a stage.”

    I believe EVERY parent should be educated in this area.

    One last thing and I learned this the hard way many years ago, after a friend of mine committed suicide. the week before he killed himself, you’d think he was on top of the world. In fact we made the comment, “Bob is his old self again, it’s nice to see.” As it was later explained to me that some who are committed to suicide may go through a time of euphoria in that he/she sees the end, they see the end of the pain and it’s a relief that the end is near. Back then, we didn’t realize he was more then likely experiencing Post Traumatic Stress having returned from Vietnam. Fortunately today, we are more aware of the problem and are finally addressing it.

    Thanks again for posting this.

  2. do you, respect the pain, sadness and horror of the afflicted person who sees suicide as a possible choice?

    Yup – 100%. After that it’s easy for you and for them. Suicidal “ideation” sounds big and complex, but it’s not and being allowed to speak and say what ever the hell is right for you is the only thing to do.

    In the UK there are The Samaritans – available 24/7 365, just a phone call away. Tel – 08457 90 90 90 and in The Republic Of Ireland it’s 1850 60 90 90.

    The Samaritans are like puppies – they tryst – they listen and they do it unconditionally … also they are not just for Christmas. P^)

    • Thanks, MediaHound; I admire you greatly and always enjoy your comments. Your skill at wading in and fighting the dragons of ignorance on topics like PTSD, what abuse survivors endure and must surmount daily to keep moving forward, and most notably for me, your comments on that awful “forgive the one who harmed you” article. Your input on the latter helped me more than words can say, even helped me to surmount a creeping suicidal feeling over that article and how my own comments in defense of child sex abuse survivors seemed to be brushed aside to further that author’s “forgive is best” agenda. I still use your analogy of “snake oil salesmen” and survivors needing to “dig out from under a daily avalanche” of issues, fears, memories and pain, just to breathe, function, and struggle to heal. I wish you had a blog of all these insights that survivors and sufferers of PTSD could access for help and encouragement. Ok that is in danger of sounding like a fanboy ramble, so I’ll just say this: you helped me at a vital moment, more than once. Thank you for doing that.

      • W.R.R. – so you spotted that I take no prisoners when it comes to people being stupid, negative and even dangerous in their attitudes to people with PTSD.

        To help other readers who end up here, I’ll link back to the the Articles You mention. I wrote long responses because I could see a need to reach out. If that has worked than I’m more than happy.

        I take it that ….your comments on that awful “forgive the one who harmed you” article. Your input on the latter helped me more than words can say,… is that the – Why Forgiving Others Makes Life Better For You?

        I think my main view got summed up with ”

        Some can write very nice books about forgiveness and it’s power, and for some it’s very useful. BUT applying such pop psychology to people who find it triggering to even have to think about the abuser who has to be forgiven …. well they just miss the point.

        So Nice – Think About Your Abuser(s) and Forgive Them As You Have So Many Flashbacks you look like a B Movie Electrical Storm. Nice Book shame about the idiot author. There is a very real and valid reason why so many abused people are not able to move forwards until they know the abusers are DEAD! Death does guarantee that all but the most determined can never hurt you again.

        When you said “..analogy of “snake oil salesmen” and survivors needing to “dig out from under a daily avalanche”..” I take it that was when I wrote to Robert Brown in response to his piece about life with recovery from abuse – “Sometimes a Train-Wreck is Just a Train-Wreck“.

        There I was talking about how there are snake oil sellers who apparently have amazing cures “Survivo™” – and also what it’s like to have PTSD and to sit silently in front of people as they say and do all the wrong things and you end up buried in an avalanche that others just can’t see. As I said and will always say:

        “I like my survivors whole – they are the most amazing, fascinating and inspiring people I have ever met. The biggest problem is that so many people are both blind to abuse and blind to survival. They keep missing the Giants who walk in their midst – quietly screaming the truth that so many just can’t bear to hear and treading so softly out of compassion for others who just couldn’t handle the Earthquakes.” Link

        I did find Robs Response humbling

        I’ll never be able to thank you enough for your reply. You have greater insight into my caldron of crap than anyone. I don’t want to ask how or why. I am just SO grateful that someone actually gets it.

        If I’ve helped I’m glad – and thanks for letting me know.

        Two points that may further help. I’ve been doing training with certain counsellors who like to focus upon the emotional nexus of events. In other words they keep asking “How Do You Feel”. That is not always easy for people with PTSD to answer. They will even respond to asking “When”?

        You ask someone with PTSD who is re-experiencing past events “How Do You Feel?”. Does that question relate to the emotions and feelings from the past event which the person is actually reliving – or is it about how they relate now how they feel now about the past event – or is it how they feel about the past and how it has affected them over time …. There can be so many ways you end up looking at reality as it spins about you like a tornado.

        I left one counsellor very shocked when I had to point out that they were very arrogant. They were so arrogant they believed 100% it was impossible for anyone to not understand the question “How Do You Feel?”.

        As I showed them, if a person is unable to readily answer the question, it’s because the question does not fit within the reality they have. In that case, get off you high horse and find out what the person is hearing, what those words mean to them. It could well be that the phrase “How Do You Feel?” was used by an abuser – so if you keep using it and don’t stop you become an abuser and need to be stopped practising.

        I was rather blunt and gave a number of other examples that ensured His jaw had to be picked up off the floor – I didn’t have time to waste on his fragile ego and arrogance, there were real people to teach.

        So many people end up calling phone help lines such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – the Samaritans and others, only to be met with someone asking “How Do You Feel?”, and there is no easy answer to that question. If you are speaking to someone who does not get it, there is nothing wrong in telling the person on the helpline they are not helping. They will often let you explain why it’s not helping.

        Of course, even then you will encounter those who still don’t get it and they will persist. In that case put the phone down – wait a few minutes and call back. People with PTSD all to often will endure under great pressure and then explode. If you are not getting through to people/strangers on the phone be strategic and don’t allow their failures to damage you.

        Could you also get the editors to change the 9 typos in the piece – Yup nine Critical Typos. It looks like your spell checker insisted on using “Suicidal ideology” when the correct term is “Suicidal ideation”. One means thinking about and considering – the other refers to A Cult Of Suicide.

        I have no fear and am 100% happy to deal with people who are suicidal and at the jumping off point. I am 100% open to people talking about those feelings – exploring them – and making sure it’s right for them. I’m disabled physically myself and have dealt with many people who wished to end it all because of ongoing chronic ill health, chronic pain and even the fear that comes from dealing with Progressive Illness.

        I’ve facilitated contact with groups such as Dignitas and even helped some folks by pass obstacles put in place so they could not get hold of books such as The Peaceful Pill Handbook. It’s a bit of a bugger that they have gone all digital and not everyone is a Computer Nerd and can easily get a copy. People can get information, advice and insight which allows them to be in control of all of their life – 100% in control.

        The one thing I have seen over and over is that dealing with the question of suicide 100% openly, honestly and with 0% embarrassment or fear actually gives people strength to go on. Once a person knows they are in charge and have power they will use it.

        There are a small number of people who do become fixated upon suicide, almost as if it is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. People can have OCD issues with hand washing – how to read a book – work environments and even suicide. That needs a whole different approach and recognition by proffesionals.

        The term Suicidal Ideology misleads many into thinking that being obsessed with suicide is normal and good when it is so often a factor of other issues. The term is also linked to certain net venues where people are encouraged to take their own lives – others logged in to watch. I really don’t think those are the places where you intend to direct people too. It’s clear it’s not a destination that you are looking for.

        So it it’s possible to stop having Google Brand this place as a danger zone it would be useful.

        Cheers.

        PS. I’ve been asked many times to collect certain writings into one place on-line. I’m wary of doing that as It means I have to take on yet another On-line responsibility and I have enough already. I’m happy for anything I’ve written to be used if it’s of value to you and others. If necessary contact me via http://meddlingrationalarchivist.wordpress.com/ and I’ll provide you with full copy for you to use.

        • Thanks so much, MediaHound for this great and helpful post, and the link to your blog! The “forgive” article was the one with the Star Wars photo at the top, at least that was the one I did battle on; not sure if they are one and the same, but I’ll check. I’m afraid I can’t blame spellcheck for my use of “ideology”, I saw that term used this way on several articles on suicide online, and sadly picked it up as they used it, assuming they used it correctly. I agree it should be “ideation”. Not sure how to fix it here (Justin, Joanna? Could you help?) but I will fix it before posting his to my journal. Thanks for pointing it out!

          I have been using a walker for awhile now while recovering from cerebral ataxia related to nutritional deficiency and alcoholism (stemming from abuse self-medication problems) but my health is now improving and I have slowly tapered off the alcohol to one beer now and then. Since I’ve been drinking since childhood, this is a big step for me. Suicide has been a bad elephant in the room for me while I didn’t yet see a way to get better. Your posts here, I read often; to remind myself that somebody gets what CSA survivors with PTSD go through. I expect you’ve helped many more than just me. Thanks again for being here.

  3. Great article, ASIST suicide intervention training goes along v similar lines. It’s run worldwide and v effective. (I have been an ASIST trainer and currently recovering from depression) http://www.livingworks.net/
    The part about not making the person feel guilty is SO important, people do want the pain to stop and to speak honestly about WHY they want to die.

    • Thank you for that info and link, Recoveryletters. As MediaHound said above, allowing the person who has suicidal thoughts to talk, to express how they feel, what their problems are (without guilt) is one of the best ways they can be helped. It takes huge courage to say “I feel suicidal”; for many the reaction they get makes all the difference in whether they try to speak up again, if their problem is not talked out or helped. Guilt trips and shaming the person often only pushes them into more silence and more pain.

  4. Thank you for this article on a difficult subject…I have dealt closely with someone who was suicidal, and, unfortunately, very manipulative and abusive….he used his suicidal threats to control me and guilt me to stay in a relationship with him…

    Thank you for mentioning all the different modes for support and treatment for such people…oftentimes, the support person feels so overwhelmed and isolated and trapped…I guess the biggest mistake I made as a teenager was thinking I could change the world by helping one person…so naive to think that I could really change anyone for the better….it damaged me permanently in the end….Call for help…don’t do it alone….

    • Leia, thanks for commenting and sharing, I’m sorry you went through that. You’re right though, getting professional help is important, but of course the person has to be willing to seek that out. For so many reasons, some people fear “professionals” (doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, etc) and it’s hard for some to see that there are “good ones”, especially if they’ve encountered “bad ones” in the past. That’s why groups like the Samaritans or many others who are trained crisis counselors and can be spoken to via phone, email, or chat are so valuable. It took a lot of persuasion and negotiation to get me into therapy as an adult because I’d been abused by doctors (medical and mental health) and a bad therapist, for years. I’m often unable to deal with face-to-face or phone due to abuse and trust issues, but the availability of good professional help via email and chat these days is a grand improvement. All the best to you….

  5. Every aspect of this article is SO SO dea-on accurate! Well written. I truly hope millions of people read this. Lacking any one of the 4-major categories you list make surviving such pain a near impossibility.

  6. This article sounds so much like me and yet I don’t even know how I got to this point

    • Thank you for reading, Bob, and taking time to comment; it takes courage and you’ve proven you have that. How we reach these points, talking it out with somebody we trust, is the second most important step; you’ve already surmounted step 1, speaking out. I find the best way to sort out how, for me, is to identify if possible the stressors or painful things in my life. This is finding the causes, on the way to finding the root cause or causes of the pain. You can move on to discovering possible solutions after that. For now, try not to see too many steps ahead, or we risk being tempted to skip needed steps in our desire to be better “now”. If you feel you have nobody you trust and feel safe to talk to in your life now, I invite you to try some of the excellent links in the article and in the comments here, to begin talking to somebody who can and will really listen and help you to do the needed work to get better. If you ever feel you may be in acute crisis, now or later on, please call 911 for help (or the equivalent if you aren’t in the USA). I hope you find help soon and please don’t hesitate to speak to us here again. I can be found at: http://www.asashesscatter.com You aren’t alone, and help and healing are possible.

  7. Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful piece about such a difficult subject. I thought you might appreciate this article on The Do’s and Don’t of Suicide Prevention (http://www.psychalive.org/2010/03/the-do%E2%80%99s-and-don%E2%80%99ts-of-suicide-prevention/), because it ties in with so many of your suggestions.

    • Thank you, Lena, and that is a good link; some of the articles linked at the bottom of that one sound very helpful, too. I appreciate it!

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  1. [...] People who admit to having suicidal thoughts are saying, "I just want the pain to stop."…People who admit to having suicidal thoughts are saying, “I just want the pain to stop.” http://ht.ly/fW0DI #TRIGGERWARN @GMPGoodLife  [...]

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