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This World Suicide Prevention Day, We Tell You The Worst Things To Say To Someone Having Suicidal Thoughts

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A while ago, I found out that someone I knew had attempted suicide and now was in a critical condition. Even though I didn’t know the person very well, I knew that I had to reach out to him and say something. But I was stumped. What was I supposed to say? “Get well soon” didn’t seem appropriate. After giving it a lot of thought I settled on saying, “saying warm wishes your way, stay strong”. But it always stuck with me because even that seemed like that wasn’t enough. 

It’s the most dreaded feeling. Watching a friend or a family member go through something so horrible that they want their life to end. What do you do to help them? Or rather, what do you say? Of course, it comes from a place of shock and worry. You want to recoil at the thought of losing them, obviously. 

But by telling you they want to commit suicide, they are giving you a window of opportunity to help them. What you say next determines whether your friend or family member will let you in further and accept help or shut the door. Understandably, you fumble with words since you are full of emotion and have thoughts that may not be as helpful to them. 

So, this World Suicide Prevention Day, we tell you the absolute worst things to say to someone who is having suicidal thoughts.

Take a look and keep them in mind. 

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tomorrow will be better, darling. ⁣ Happy FIRST DAY of World Suicide Prevention Month. Don't worry, enneagram content isn't going away, I have an enneagram post scheduled for tomorrow, but this month will heavily be focused on mental health, suicide prevention, mental health & healing from trauma within the church, church hurt, etc. ⁣ There was a span of months in 2018 where one of the only things that got me through the night was humming and singing this phrase with Noah as we fell asleep. It's from the song Tomorrow Will Be Better by Little Image (@little.image) ⁣ Sometimes the next day would be better, sometimes it wouldn’t be. But the singing is what brought me hope. The chance of tomorrow being better made the waking up and living and doing and breathing worth it. ⁣ I'm singing it over you today, & I hope this brings a breath of hope into your week!

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Everyone faces these problems. You’ll get over it.

Telling a person experiencing suicidal thoughts that they will “get over it” is futile. They have reached this point because they have been battling the problem for a while and they haven’t gotten over it. So telling them they will is redundant and insensitive. At the same time, make sure you don’t encourage them either. As for saying something on the lines of, everyone has problems or people have it worse, don’t do that either. It’s not a competition of who has the most problems. Right now, what is most important is helping that person deal with his/her reality, not comparing it to others. 

Suicide is for cowards

Tell someone who is thinking of committing suicide that it is for cowards only inspires a sense of shame. It doesn’t even make sense. In fact, it will make him/her feel unnecessarily judged. Just be a good listener and say things that are motivating and not dismissive. 

If such a small thing affected you so much what will you do in the real world

Don’t call whatever is bothering a person enough for them to contemplate suicide, small. It’s extremely dismissive. They are living in the real world and they are fighting a grave battle. Don’t negate that saying whatever they are going through is small or all in their head.  

Your problems aren’t even that serious

Belittling or invalidating someone’s feelings is not going to help anybody. Instead of telling them that their problems aren’t serious, you should be thankful that they chose to open up. Sometimes, that in itself is a step in the right direction. Don’t downplay the situation, always take it extremely seriously. 

You wouldn’t do anything stupid, would you?

Well, this depends on what your definition of the word, “stupid” is. What you might think is stupid, the person battling a mental illness might see as their only way out. Asking them if they are going to do something stupid, is a very insensitive way to approaching them. Hear them out, show them that you care and that they aren’t alone. It’ll make all the difference. 

Also Read: Studies Show That Women Are More Vulnerable To Mental Health Issues And Are More Depressed During This Lockdown Than Men

“You’re just kidding about killing yourself. Right?”

Nobody kids about wanting to kill themselves. It’s not funny and it’s not something to joke about. Do not ask this, always presume they aren’t joking. When someone comes to you and says they are having suicidal thoughts, asking them whether they are kidding sends a message that you aren’t taking them seriously. It does more harm than good, so why not take everyone seriously?

Don’t tell me you want to die because of this!

Again, do not minimize their thought process. Saying this is not going to snap them out of it, it’s only going to make them feel small. In cases like these, being dismissive does more harm than not saying anything. Don’t encourage them but at the same time make sure you don’t leave them feeling unheard. Their problems, whatever it might be, are obviously not trivial. Be an active listener. 

Don’t think too much about your problems

The thing about mental illnesses is that they consume the mind. Negative thoughts, anxiety, miserable feelings are all constantly swirling around in there. Saying something on the lines or don’t think too much about your problems or do something to get your mind off it, is easier said than done. For them to just take their mind of their problems is not a viable solution. 

Things will get better with time

To them, their unhappiness does not have an end. Saying things will get better with time is extremely vague. You don’t know if or when things will be better for them so it’s not possible for you to set a realistic goal. So, instead of saying that just make them feel like they aren’t alone in whatever they are going through. Be there for them and make sure they get the help they need for things to actually get better. 

Suicide is a dumb idea. You’re not thinking about suicide right?

Do not insult their ideas but do not encourage them either. This makes the other person feel judged. You can’t fathom what they are going through but you can try. Acknowledge their feelings, don’t dismiss them by saying they are dumb or selfish or cowardly. Let them know how much they mean to you and that it’s okay to feel like this. Instead of asking them if they were contemplating suicide, ask them how you can help them get through this.

This story has inputs from Natasha Ambre of Maeve Therapy. She is highly passionate about spreading Mental Health Awareness. She’s been active in the space for a long time and has also founded Maeve Therapy, a mental health start-up for people who need affordable help. Her passion to help stems from her own confusing and troublesome mental health journey as a result of the societal stigma!

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