Excerpt from the book “How I stayed alive when my brain was trying to kill me” by Susan Rose Blauner.
It’s a given that secrets underlie most suicidal thoughts, secrets like sexual abuse, battering, or severe loss. Often the suicidal thinker can’t even easily recall these secrets. Clearly those secrets need to be flushed out, but here I speak only of the crisis at hand. Beware: if the suicidal creisis is continually buried in secrecy, the suicidal thinker might end up buried as well.
We’ve all been trained to discount trauma, keep our chin up, look on the bright side. This attitude, however, can lead to fear, shame, and confusion, feelings that make it difficult to give and receive productive emotional support. By acting on the belief that secrets are deadly and establishing an open line of communication, you give the suicidal thinker an outlet for the turmoil that’s eating at her soul. If you remain closed to the reality of her life, you contribute to her destruction. It’s as simple as that.
You loved one’s suicidal thoughts are not going to disappear by shutting them out. This is not a game; she could wind up dead or with permanent physical damage.
If someone in your life has made a suicide gesture or has come to you talking of suicide, there’s a good chance that person will continue in the same vein until he or she breaks the cycle, either by outthinking the brain or completing the suicide. It’s hard to hear someone talk about suicide, I know. If you tend to squash or interrupt the suicidal thinker with words like, “Oh, come on, that’s nothing,” or “Why can’t you forget about it”…
…then you are doing the wrong thing. When a suicidal thinker or depressed person comes to you needing to talk, here is a summary of the list in the book of things to help you get through that discussion:
- Stop whatever you’re doing straight away and give the person your full attention.
- Listen to what they have to say.
- Do not judge or make accusations.
- Them him or her that you are there for them.
- Ask if you can help them in any way.
- Let the person show the emotions they are feeling ie anger, hurt, shame.
- Let them cry.
- If you feel uncomfortable or distressed by what you are hearing, sip water and breathe deeply, but try to keep your own emotions hidden because if they see they are upsetting you, they may stop talking.
- Release your own emotions when the person has left your presence. Go for a long walk or share your own feelings with a friend.