What to do if someone you love is Suicidal
How does Counselling Help Someone with Suicidal Thoughts?
I have counselled many clients over the years, through this process. When someone has suicidal thoughts, they feel like giving up. It's as if from somewhere deep inside they have a little voice saying:
Stop! I can't keep going! Life is too hard! Suicidal Thoughts are The White Flag the spirit waves in times of desperation.
If you, or someone you love, is feeling suicidal, my heart goes out to you... Seek professional help quick! This situation is urgent. Make sure you have Life Line phone no on hand (13 11 14) and feel free to take yourself or your loved one to Hospital (Emergency) if needed, in the middle of the night.
Types of Suicidal Thoughts:
These are 3 x types of suicidal thoughts:
1. No Action Plan:The person finds their life so hard, they just don't know if they can go on. They have no plans to take their life, and they are not acting in a risky manner. They know they are just going through a tough time, or a tough experience, and they feel like dying. This could progress to 2, or 3, so this needs to be addressed, and treated as urgent.
2. Risky Behaviour: The person feels overwhelmed by life, in that moment, or for many weeks or months. They don't feel like living, and even though they don't have a plan to commit suicide, they are taking physical risks to their safety, in a slight attempt/hope that they may die. They may drive eraticly, walk slowly through traffic, drink to excess, or over-use drugs, etc,. They are in serious risk of injury or death. This person needs professional help ASAP.
3. Plan in place: The person feels 'over' the process of life. The depression has been ongoing and they are making plans to end their suffering. They are likely to have repetitive thoughts about actions they want to take, and are thinking about / planning ways to end their life. This is an URGENT situation too, and seek help immediately if this is you, or a loved one.
How can you tell if a loved one is thinking about suicide? They may begin to:
Give away possessions and pets
Get their affairs in order / speaking to a solicitor
Say 'everyone would be better off with me'
Get quieter and withdraw from all usual activities and friends
Start to make amends, say sorry, and say their goodbyes
Sometimes a suicide attempt is not completed, and they attempt again later
Someone who is suicidal is often angry - usually at others, life, and most definitely at themself
What can you do?
In all the above cases, make sure the person sees a psychologist or counsellor, a doctor, and possibly a psychiatrist, especially if they are having psychosis. Connect this person with professional help, and then give them lots of love and support. Someone who is suicidal is usually suffering depression, and can be suffering anxiety. They normaly would have a chemical imbalance, and therefore, life can feel like they are in hell. This feeling can change. I help clients constantly change. However, just having empathy for your loved one helps. People who want to suicide rarely do this for attention. They suicide as they feel (incorrectly) this is the only way to end the pain. Life is simply too hard.
A crisis counsellor or psychologist can help the suicidal person reconnect to life again.
Suicidal thinking is not something that love alone can fix. I learnt this in 1997 (before I was a counsellor), when my close friend and guitarist ended his life. This is a major reason I work with clients with depression/suicidal thoughts, and why I wrote my 2nd book, Are you Listening? LIfe is Talking to YOU. I want others to avoid the heart ache I suffered from Shane's death.
What do I do? I investigate ...
When I work with a suicidal client, I do a thorough assessment (just like when I work with a client with depression), but I also work with 'Links to Life', connecting the client to the reasons they want to live. I also open them up, allow them to feel their pain, and then find solutions (sometimes practical/behaviour therapy) to help them make their lives easier.
This work is intense, and thorough, because I have usually one session to find the issues, and give the client the hope and the tools to change their life. I then recommend weekly counselling, until client is out of crisis. I often find that 4 to 6 sessions is enough, for most straight forward situations. I have occassionally had clients who needed more time. The most important ones are the 1st 2 x sessions. Lots of work to do in those! I also give homework, which is integral to healing.
I ask the client to call anytime, night or day. I've only had one suicidal client call me after hours feeling suicidal, at 6am, and I am glad he did.
There is only up from our lowest point in life.
If you are feeling suicidal... I encourage you to see a professional, however, never visit just any counsellor. Try to ensure they are qualified / able to cope in this area. I hope, if you are reading this, that you seek help for yourself.
Trust me; the way you feel now will change when you know how to turn this around. I'd love to help you. If you can't come and see me, feel free to buy or borrow my 2nd book. It has transformed clients in just 160 pages...
It's your life. Live for you, not for everyone else. What do you want? Visualise it first. I want you to have the life you want.
If you are drowning in negative thoughts, let's get that all turned around. There are loads of ways to do that... I'll show you how. And then you can spend more time doing what you want. No-one ever said, on their death bed, "I wished I'd worked more." Live more! That's what we need :)
Feel free to watch this TV interview with myself on Healing Depression: