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‘If You Were Really Suicidal, You Wouldn’t Tell Anyone’
Recently I wrote a two-part article on how to tell someone you are feeling suicidal (part one and part two). In these articles I outlined the who, what, when, and how of talking about your own suicidal feelings. Just admitting that you feel suicidal to yourself is difficult, but telling someone else about your suicidal feelings can seem downright impossible and that’s what these articles look to address.
But unfortunately, even if a person who is feeling suicidal tells someone, that person is not always supportive. And as one commenter, Lena, pointed out, sometimes what the person you’ve disclosed to does, compounds the pain of feeling suicidal:
“What I hate about telling people your feeling suicidal is they don’t always take you seriously… I’ve heard a lot of people claim that if you’re really suicidal you wouldn’t tell anyone… and its so frustrating and hurts to hear that…”
The person who doesn’t take the suicidal person seriously absolutely increases the chances that the person will act on their suicidal feelings. Unquestionably everyone who feels suicidal needs help—not pain-compounding ignorance. Maybe fear of this reaction is why in a study:
- 76 percent of people who attempted suicide said they had a family support system available to them they could have called, but they didn’t.
‘If You Were Really Suicidal You Wouldn’t Tell Anyone’
Not only is this statement insulting and intuitively well, unintelligent, but it’s actually false on a scientific level. People usually talk about suicide before attempting it. Young people often talk to peers and show warning signs while adults tend to seek professional help. In the same study:
- 84 percent had sought the counsel of a healthcare provider in the month before their attempted suicide, seeking help for their emotional state. . . Most reported they had not been asked about their emotional state or suicidal potential during their visit. Most reported dissatisfaction with their healthcare provider.
And it’s known that people want help from their family and friends before a suicide attempt too:
- About 80 percent of people who attempt or complete suicide send out warning signs to those around them, although they may not make a direct plea for help.
And remember, suicide is not rare:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24. Even children under 10 die by suicide.
People Who Attempt Suicide Don’t Want to Die
What’s important to remember is that people who attempt suicide do not want to die—they want to be free of pain—so of course they reach out before an attempt. A suicide attempt is a last resort for the vast majority of people and they would rather correct their pain in any other way.
So when a person admits to suicidal feelings to you, it’s imperative that you take them seriously. You may be their last line of defense before a very permanent action. You must get them help. If you care about this person, you need to take them seriously and help them start handling whatever it is that’s driving them to contemplate suicide. Do not be the one who could have helped, but didn’t.
If someone admits to suicidal feelings to you:
- Call 911 or go to an emergency room if there is any immediate danger
- Call a helpline
- Take the person to a doctor or another mental health professional
- Tell the person that you care about them. Thank them for being open with you. Encourage conversation. Give them a hug.
- More on what to do and not do here