This tough but urgent question is often submitted to Inspire Counseling Ministries by compassionate people who struggle to properly respond to someone they care about deeply that is struggling with depressive moods and episodes. While there are other soul-level needs and challenges that may be contributing to and can only be addressed through relational/spiritual means, the immediate response must be one of triage (a preliminary assessment in order to determine the urgency of their need for treatment and the nature of treatment required) in which those closest to a potential suicide victim play a very, very, very significant role with one suicidal death every eleven minutes in the United States.
Here are a few thoughts to guide us all in these difficult situations-especially with those closest to us who often attempt to deflect or minimize our concerns:
Look for one or more of the behaviors/mindsets listed below provided by nimh.nih.gov:
- Talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves
- Talking about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
- Planning or looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online, stockpiling pills, or newly acquiring potentially lethal items (in other words, “ideation”)
- Talking about great guilt or shame
- Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
- Feeling unbearable pain, both physical or emotional
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Using alcohol or drugs more often
- Acting anxious or agitated
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Changing eating and/or sleeping habits
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Taking risks that could lead to death, such as reckless driving
- Talking or thinking about death often
- Displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy
- Giving away important possessions
- Saying goodbye to friends and family
- Putting affairs in order, making a will
While some of these, by themselves, are not enough to identify a person as “imminently suicidal,” enough of them together forming a pattern are. Others, of a more serious nature, are enough to stand alone as a trigger for us to spring into action to help save our loved one or acquaintance from self-destructing without the professional, clinically-informed counseling that they desperately need (whether they recognize it or not.)
Here is data from CDC that states for every ONE suicidal death in the US there are numerous more (this means suicidal activity is much more frequent and inclusive than the one-every-eleven minute stat shared earlier):
* Based on the latest year of available data for adults ages 18 and older.
** Source: CDC WISQARS
*** Source: 2020 SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health
Respond in a sober, timely fashion with the following considerations:
While a family member or caregiver should not jump to premature conclusions based upon symptoms typical of milder forms of discouragement or even depression, any specific reference to wanting to kill themselves, ideation of methods to do so, and/or pervasive feelings of being trapped with no options left must be taken seriously. If someone is telling you that they are going to kill themselves, do not leave them alone or let them hang up on the phone. Stay with them or keep them on the line via three-way and call 911 or even better 988 immediately. (988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, available to everyone across the United States effective July 16, 2022. This also a good number to give to those who do not appear to be an immediate threat to themselves but may require additional support in the future.). This will typically lead to a stabilizing period in a hospital’s psych ward so that any psychiatric or somatic (having to do with the body) source issues can be identified and systematically treated. Once these life-threatening concerns have been addressed, then other root causes of a relational and spiritual nature can be resolved through soul-oriented counseling.
Would you let Jesus, the One who said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10) use you to be a part of saving others from even themselves? As the philosopher Seneca wisely put is, “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” And that courage is not just the courage of the one deciding whether they want to live or not; it is also the one willing to speak up who does life with them!
Please email us immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org if we can be of help to you in this regard.