If a person is immediately suicidal, get help now. Call 911, call their prescriber, call their therapist. Get them to a safe place.
But after the person has their professional support system and the first level of treatment in place, they will still need your help and care. Here are suggestions for after the immediate crisis is over.
- Be supportive but not pushy. Often the suicidal person doesn’t know exactly why they feel so bad. They’ll talk about it when they’re ready. As difficult as it is for you to not know why, pushing for answers means that they have to take care of your feelings now, which they may not be able to manage on top of their own.
- Distraction is OK. Going to the movies, shopping, doing fun things can be helpful. On the other hand, sometimes the person just needs quiet time alone. Be there, but don’t push the person to be active all the time.
- Gently help the person maintain their basic life activities–school, work, etc. If they need some time off, that’s OK, but help them keep their life going.
- Recovering from the severity of suicidality can be a long process that can’t be rushed. Medication or medication changes may be required, and will take time to adjust to. Be aware of the danger of overdose, however–you may be needed to dispense the meds.
- Remind them of your love for and faith in them. They don’t feel hope right now. In some ways you have to carry the hope for them until they can feel it themselves.
- Supporting a suicidal person is very difficult because you can’t just push through to a solution. They have to find their answers on their own. Your help must be mostly indirect rather than direct. Love, care, concern, but knowing when to back off–but still be available–will be the best way to support them.