Tips from a Columbia Therapist for Helping a Friend in Crisis
Among people ages 10 to 24, suicide is the second leading cause of death. This is significantly higher than the rate for the general population in which suicide is the 10th most popular cause of death. Regardless of standing, suicide is a serious issue for people of all ages, leading to detrimental effects on everyone in that person’s life.
At Psych Associates of Maryland - the leading Columbia therapist - we do everything in our power to keep our patients happy and healthy, which is why we are here to share with you tips on getting help for someone who may be suicidal. Whether this person is a close friend or simply an acquaintance, you can make a difference in suicide prevention in someone’s life.
The first step in helping someone at risk for suicide is educating yourself about potential warning signs. Oftentimes someone having suicidal thoughts will have them for some time and will show a number of warning signs. According to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, these are some of the potential warning signs of someone intending on ending their life:
While some of these signs may be easier to spot than others, it’s important to note that these signs aren’t always immediately visible when seeing the person on the street. Sometimes people with suicidal ideation overcompensate to hide these feelings, and will often retreat to a point of elation or manic joy before attempting suicide.
Additionally, social media is often seen as a way to glance into peoples’ minds and many people express feelings of hopelessness via social media. The suicide prevention lifeline provides examples of these types of posts so that you can easily spot them.
In general, however, if a loved one seems off or is going through a tough time, take the time to reach out to them and ask how they’re doing. Sometimes this type of outreach can make the difference for those contemplating suicide.
If you’ve identified warning signs for suicide in a friend’s behavior, it’s extremely important to reach out to them. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and provides confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for people in crisis.
It can feel awkward to reach out to a loved one about this issue. The suicide prevention lifeline not only is a resource for those in distress, but for those who see someone in distress. However, a good way to reach out is by acknowledging that you’ve seen this person struggling and are there to support them. Ask if this person is immediately safe, and provide them with the lifeline number as a resource.
If this person is uncomfortable speaking over the phone, they can do so over text by texting HOME to 74141 for a confidential text conversation with a trained crisis counselor 24/7. If you know someone going through a hard time, it’s a good idea to encourage them to keep this number in their phone.
Additionally, if you see messages of suicidal ideation on social media, a Columbia therapist recommends taking action. This can be done by reporting posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, or periscope for reasons of suicidal content or self-harm. The platform itself will then reach out directly to that user.
Referring to your friend to a suicide prevention lifeline is the most important step in helping them find support when in crisis. However, suicidal ideation - even when only occurring once - is an extremely concerning issue that requires follow-up. Do your part by continuing to check-in with your friend; ask how he or she is feeling, if he or she is safe, and if they want to talk about the incident.
While talking to your friend, suggest that they see a Columbia therapist or a therapist in their area. Therapy is great for talking through life’s biggest (and smallest!) struggles in a safe, confidential area. This can make the tough life dilemmas easier to deal with and help your friend develop healthy coping skills when in crisis. Some of the best ways to support a friend here is helping them contact therapists who take their insurance, driving them to an appointment, and offering to wait for them after their first appointment.
Most importantly, it’s important to speak to your friend with an open, understanding mind. Suicidal ideation goes against our natural instincts as humans, meaning that your friend is likely struggling with something much bigger than themself. Provide your best possible support with this in mind.
You can make a difference in preventing suicide. If you or a friend are looking for support, get in touch with Psych Associates of Maryland today to get started with the high-quality care you deserve.
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