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How to Show Up for Your Suicidal Loved One

Written by: Aleisha Parker, M.Ed.
How to Show Up for Your Suicidal Loved One

When someone you love expresses to you their deep emotional pain or shares their thoughts of suicide, it can be extremely difficult. People experiencing such emotions are vulnerable and need their support network to show up for them in a compassionate and helpful way. There are several things you should and should not do when supporting someone in that tough moment.

Do’s:

  • Listen to them. It is hard to overcome rough patches when you don’t feel heard or don’t believe you have someone in your life that will take you seriously. Show them that what they are going through matters to you and create a safe place for them to be open.
  • Validate their emotions. To validate someone means to be open to their experience of a situation and accepting it to be true. To invalidate someone means you are rejecting their perceptions and therefore, adding fuel to the fire.
  • Be confident and direct. If you come off as nervous or afraid to talk about suicide, it is possible that your loved one will shut down or feel uncomfortable talking to you in return.
  • Thank them for telling you. They told you because they trust you, and by expressing your appreciation for sharing, you are encouraging them to speak up if these thoughts come back.
  • Ensure their safety. Come up with a plan to keep your loved one safe especially if they disclosed how they would kill their self.
  • Reach out for professional help. Call their therapist if they have one, reach out to the Georgia Crisis and Access Line at 800-715-4225, or go to the nearest emergency room for extra support.
  • Take care of yourself! These experiences might bring up a lot of difficult feelings for you as well. Do what you have to do to make sure you are also going to be okay.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t ignore the warning signs. People who are suicidal may express this in verbal and/or nonverbal ways.
  • Don’t say things like, “Get over it. You should be grateful for what you have.” Again, invalidation does more harm than good.
  • Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong.
  • Don’t ask why.
  • Don’t promise you won’t tell anyone.

Being in this situation can be hard on everyone involved. Suicidal thoughts are common with people experiencing depression, and you can make a big difference in their life if you show up in a way that shows you care. Be sure to trust your gut, use your resources and you might just save a life.