Years ago I took a call on a suicide hotline from a distressed male caller who started by saying, "I need to talk to someone because I am having thoughts of organizing my closet by color!" This man's story led me down a path of understanding suicidal thoughts with new curiosity and next I'll share a few of the most important things I've learned.
Whether you have ever had thoughts of not wanting to be alive and/or know somebody who has, you probably know that talking about suicide can be quite uncomfortable and even scary. These thoughts often feel like the elephant nobody wants to acknowledge. If you had answered crisis lines and sat with hundreds of people contemplating thoughts of ending their life over the years like me, you would also know that they can be an important turning point in someone's life and are even an opportunity to bridge to something better. Here are a few different ways to understand and handle suicidal thoughts:
In summary, suicidal thoughts mean we are human, we need to talk about them, we are overwhelmed and trying to get perspective, and we all have flags that could take us to edge of questioning our existence. For those of you who find yourself in the place of listening to someone with suicidal thoughts my advice is: be compassionate, never assume that suicidal thoughts are not serious, stay away from advising because of your own anxiety, and take care of yourself (e.g., I'm glad you're talking about these thoughts, I can listen for a few minutes and then want to know your plan on what you are doing to get help in addition to talking to me). Finally, don't hesitate to reach out for your own support (including calling the crisis line!) if you are unsure on how to support yourself and the person having these thoughts.
For more information on suicide and ways to address and prevent it, please go to: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
If you want to find the number of your local crisis line, try dialing 211 (a free resource to get you connected to your community wherever you are!).
If you are willing to share below, what are your flags and what do you do to get help when they show up?