"I'd be better off dead. I wish I would die. I don't want to live anymore."
Hearing your loved one say these things will no doubt shake you to your core. It will feel like the rug has just been pulled out from under you. These are phrases that no mom, grandma, wife, friend, sister, aunt, or anyone else ever wants to hear. When you have a loved one who is dealing with any sort of mental illness it is very possible that these thoughts have come into their mind. When you hear these comments there are a few things you can do to help.
- Step 1. Counseling. Is your loved one in counseling? If so I would notify their counselor. If they are not in counseling I would gently push/encourage them to find a counselor. If it is your friend, offer to help find a counselor for them. Sometimes people are struggling to just get out of bed. Help them take this very important step.
- Step 2. "Are you thinking about suicide?" These 5 words are so simple to say but so powerful and so important. The answer to this question will 100% dictate your next step. Also, one very important thing to note. Asking if someone is thinking about suicide or taking their own life does NOT "plant the seed" or give them the idea. If anything it does the exact opposite.
- Step 3. After asking this question, if their answer is "no" then you repeat step one. Keep talking to them. Keep asking questions. When you check in with them another great question to ask is "Do you feel safe?" I ask my daughter this all the time. If she feels unsafe then her passive thoughts are turning to active thoughts and I need to step in asap. (Read this post if you are unsure of what the difference between passive and active suicidal thoughts are.)
- Step 4. If their answer is "yes" they are thinking about suicide then you need to start safety proofing your home. Lock up sharps, meds, and firearms. Just by doing this simple step, you can reduce the risk of a successful suicide attempt by 40%. That is huge. Here is a statistic. Females attempt suicide more times than males. They often use medications or cutting. Males are 9/10 times successful and only attempt once. They use firearms and other more "dramatic" ways.
- Step 5. Ask them if their answer is yes to thinking about suicide. "Do you have a plan? If you are considering suicide do you have a plan on how and when you are going to take your life?" This is a VERY hard question to ask and not one anyone wants to ever have to ask. It is so very important though.
- Step 6. If they answer yes that they have a plan, call your local emergency department. Call a national crisis line. Call their doctor. If after-hours page them. You need to notify someone ASAP. If you have to call the police and tell them that your loved one has a plan to attempt suicide. DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!
- Step 7. If they answer "no" they do not have a plan then repeat steps 3 and 4. Have frequent check-ins with them.
I know that these questions are so very hard. I know that hearing your loved ones say they wish they were dead is very hard. Doing these things can save your loved one's life. Ask hard questions. Talk about suicide. End the stigma.