(Published June 14, 2023)
HOW TO START THE CONVERSATION
You might not know what to say to someone in your life who you think may be considering suicide. Whether a child, friend, co-worker, parent, or acquaintance. We get it. Talking about suicide can be hard. But it might be one of the most important conversations you ever have.
You care about the people in your life. That’s why it’s so important to make sure they know they can talk to you. Especially if they’ve been thinking about suicide. It is time to trust your gut. Do not dismiss your thoughts and feelings as paranoia or over protection. Take action to open a conversation. That one conversation could be a critical turning point.
Starting the conversation may feel overwhelming. What do you ask without being accusatory or sounding disappointed? What do you say when they tell you about their thoughts and feelings? How do you react to their use of alcohol, drugs, their gambling, depression or thoughts of suicide? No matter what they are struggling with, you can start a life-changing or life-saving conversation. Simply keep these thoughts in mind:
- Be direct and specific when you ask. If you simply ask, “How are you doing?” or “Feeling OK?” it is too easy for them to brush the question aside with a canned “I’m fine.” Instead, tell them that you have noticed things are off, even offering specific examples of what you have been noticing. If your concern is on mental health, ask them if they are feeling particularly hopeless or sad these days.
- Once the conversation starts, listening is your most powerful tool. Your friend or family member may have lots to say. In many cases, they have been secretly hoping someone will reach out and help. Listen, hear what they are saying, and allow them to talk about their pain.
- Stay as neutral as you can. Behaviors related to alcohol or drug use, gambling and mental health are not issues that can be corrected with a lecture. In most cases, it takes a long time, support, and possibly medical personnel to get them to a healthy place.
- Remind them that they are not alone. Tell your loved one that you will be there to help navigate the future. It is also good to remind them that many people experience what they are experiencing, so there are many with shared and lived experience who can help.
- Hope is the key. Remember this. Your friend or family member may be in a very dark place. Remind them that it can be different. With help, support and dedication, they can tackle today, and be ready when tomorrow comes.
- Encourage them to find expert advice. Your role in your friend or family member’s life is important. You may not be able to offer all of the support they will need. Encourage them to reach out to Your Life Iowa. We have expert resources, advice and networks of professionals needed to set them on a path to recovery or healing.