what they say about what to say about suicide

Remember the local bipolar guy who attempted suicide? He’s still in an induced coma and has run out of medical aid. Apparently he took a month and a half’s supply of whatever meds he’s on, washed down with alcohol. They suspect there’s brain damage from it all. Fucking awful for his loved ones.

What could have been said?

Everybody tries to prevent suicide and frequently with slogans like
Hang in there.
Keep on keepin’ on.
It’s gonna be ok.
I’ve said ’em all myself and heard them said to me too. Maybe they’re not working, maybe we have to rethink the strategy. There’s no stick on the planet that’ll work on someone whose deepest and most desperate desire is to end it all as soon as possible. The carrots don’t seem to be effective either.

“Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”
Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do. SAVE.org

I warbled on about busting the taboo and talking about suicide in my last post about the subject, then I wondered what people are supposed to say to a suicidal person. To be brutally honest, what I want to hear when I am that far down is let me take care of stuff for a while. For me, the urge is about not being able to cope. The answer is not that well loved oh pull yourself together and dig the garden/run 50km/accept Jesus/get a hobby concept. That’s just even more depressing. I reckon I’d maybe feel calmer and more likely to hang on if someone arrived, tidied up and made things welcoming, made tea – simple stuff. Obviously that’s assuming there’s time and no window ledge involved – and assuming it’s me you’re trying to rescue. So in general,  I don’t have a clue wtf anyone should say.

I’m hoping people will comment about their own experiences and what might work/not work for them. There are far too many variables for anything to be remotely accurate overall.

Dr Google to the rescue (or the research, at least), to see what sort of wisdom can be gleaned from a fairly common consensus on the matter.

ASK: Are you having thoughts of suicide?
Myth: Talking about it may give someone the idea. People already have the idea; suicide is constantly in the news media. If you ask a despairing person this question you are doing a good thing for them: you are showing him that you care about him, that you take him seriously, and that you are willing to let him share his pain with you. You are giving him further opportunity to discharge pent up and painful feelings. If the person is having thoughts of suicide, find out how far along his ideation has progressed.

The majority of sites I visited advocated asking and talking about it. It makes sense to me – I’d like to add though (and again, this only applies to me, I’m not speaking for anyone else) that I wish suicide had been an open topic of discussion way, way before I ever tried it. I don’t know whether that would have stopped me, but I have a suspicion or hope or something, that it would have given me a bit more clarity. Eh I dunno, just some thoughts.

Sometimes it helps to let your friend know why you are asking. For instance, you might say, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been talking a lot about wanting to be dead. Have you been having thoughts about trying to kill yourself?”
Teen Health

My psychiatrist asks, “and how’s the suicidality,” every now and then. I like the fact that she does and I’m honest with her.

Comfort the person with words of encouragement. Use common sense to offer words of support. Remember that intense emotional pain can be overwhelming, so be as gentle and caring as possible. There is no script to use in situations like these, because each person and each situation is different. Listen carefully, and offer encouraging words when appropriate.

I’ve written about the next piece of advice before too and I still think it’s essential. Preceding and following quote both from Suicide.org

Ask the person, “Are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about how you would do it?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Do you have what you need to do it?”
If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about when you would do it?”

Here are those four important questions in abbreviated form:
Have what you need?
You need to know as much as possible about what is going on in the person’s mind. The more planning that someone has put into a suicide, the greater the risk. If the person has a method and a time in mind, the risk is extremely high and you cannot hesitate to call 911 and ensure that professional treatment is given.

I really like the fact that pretty much all of the info says very clearly, listen. It’s a good idea to start listening efficiently full stop – none of us ought to wait till someone is suicidal before we learn that skill. When I’m at the end of the proverbial tether, I go silent and feel panicky if I’m pushed to talk. There are times also, when problem solving really isn’t the answer. Not always, obviously, but sometimes we simply need to listen without rushing to the conclusion with a solution. Speaking for myself, there are times when I have zero respect for my problems, and for myself for being defeated by them.

If I’m struggling with something that is no struggle at all for you, it’d be good if you simply believed what I said.
I am terrified of …
I can’t cope with …
I am freaking out …
I’m so down I can barely breathe …
Those are things that, on the whole, I probably know how to deal with better than you do. I might even be doing the right stuff at the time. Doesn’t mean I want or need to be alone with it.

And I don’t want to feel any more stupid about it than I already do. I need to remember, in those situations, that I’ve faced gunfire and seen deaths and handled a whole lot that other people can’t. So I get all fucked up over simple admin or whatever – so what?

When I am shown respect as a human being, no matter what a disintegrating fuckup I think I am, it really does help. Perhaps not in any tangible way, but it does. And that’s something that hopefully we all have already, from some people in our lives. I do and it means an enormous amount to me.

There’s also plenty of good stuff out there from the other angle, like 10 things not to say to a suicidal person.

I suppose the thing is to spread the word as far as possible – try saying these things, do not say those things … its impossible to gauge their effectiveness or lack thereof though. It’s too easy to sit and judge from the outside. There’s a preconception that suicides happen due to a lack of love or attention or whatever – and that is certainly not the case. You only have to read Danielle Steele’s account of the tragic loss of her son to see that no matter how much love and support there is, it can still happen.

We need to be brutally realistic about suicide, or else all we are doing is setting ourselves up for heartache.

I have had suicidal ideations since I was very young and it’s still a default setting. After my first attempt, I swore it had given me a new lease on life and that it’d never happen again. Well that’s half a lifetime and a long way away. I still have suicidal ideations; in fact I spend most of my life wishing I wasn’t alive. It’s far from ideal, but you’d be surprised how long those ideations can be managed, before they turn into intentions. Will I have suicidal intentions again? I’m pretty sure I will. Will I go through with it? I don’t know. What would stop me? I don’t know that either. When you get that far down, you can’t even see love. Maybe just hang out with me, hand me coffee and cigarettes. No matter how much energy may eventually go into it, I firmly believe that suicidal people are bone tired people.

Erm, in case anyone feels the need to freak out about that last paragraph, don’t. Remember I promised my dog I’d be alive at least as long as her? Well she’s only two.

I want to be completely open about this stuff – maybe the muggles want/need a better understanding of minds like mine? Idk. But it’s there if it’s ever needed.

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battlescarred, bright, bewildered, bent, blue & bipolar

48 thoughts on “what they say about what to say about suicide”

  1. This all makes sense to me. I’ve felt the same and thought the same and planned the same. I hope that society stops not talking about it and starts actually trying to start the conversation. X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish those feelings and thoughts and plans had never been near you at all – but thank you for saying it. And I agree, the conversation is incredibly important. X

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My doctors always throw out, “Any thoughts of suicide?” And I mean, what is the right answer to this? You say yes, they lock you up? I’ve taken to replying, “Just days where I wouldn’t step out of the way if a bus came speeding at me.”
    It’s true. I swore I’d never deliberately kill myself to spite the idiot who told me I should do the world a favor by committing suicide…And I am a spiteful woman with a long memory so I damn well meant it.
    But…At the darkest moments…When all hope seems lost…The thought is there. And I’ve been stockpiling Trazadone for years. It was never intentional, I just got to a point where the sleep wasn’t worth the hangover.
    I guess that’s a method and plan?
    Overall…I’m not suicidal. Self destructive at times, maybe.
    I think one of the biggest misconceptions about suicide is the mentality “If a person talks about killing themselves, it’s a cry for attention, they’ll never actually do it.”
    For every time that is true, there is a person who proves it to be a fallacy.
    That seems like a good idea to me. It’s what I’d want.
    And kudos for bringing up a topic so many tiptoe around like a minefield. It may be a trigger, it may be a social taboo, but suicide is a reality and keeping it tucked away isn’t going to make it go away.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankies!

      I go through this routine fairly often:
      How’s the suicidality?
      Still ideations not intentions.

      If I get v dark she asks if I need hospital. I’d have to really go far to be committed, I think. Things are different here.

      Your method is flawed, so it’s a shitty plan … which is probably a good thing, depending on your point of view. What the half life of trazodone anyway … hrm …

      And that cry for attention thing fucks me off SO hard. “it’s just a cry for attention” – JUST?! People think it’s some sort of aggro tantrum aimed at hurting them … grrrrrrrrrrrrr


  3. I’m not sure where to start in this comment. Like you suicidal thoughts have been a constant for me since I was young. When I am feeling extremely suicidal, I don’t want people to try and talk it away or fix it. I want them to just spend time with me, and listen to me. Telling me “it will get better,” doesn’t make anything better. When I am in that moment feeling like I don’t want to live, I can’t see that it will be better. Telling me it will, only makes me feel like you aren’t taking me seriously.

    When I was in high school and cutting, it was the time of yahoo chat rooms. I would go in them and talk to other people who also had issues. One day I was at my friend L’s house. I was talking to another girl a long ways away who said she was suicidal or wanted to hurt herself (I don’t remember the exact details now), and I told my friend L about her and that I was worried. L’s response was, “she’ll be fine.” It felt like a slap in the face because L had never been where I had been as far as depression, cutting and suicide. It made me feel like she thought “I would be fine.” Yes, I made it through that part in my life and I’m fine, but it made me feel like she didn’t take me seriously. When you are in the middle of it, you don’t feel like you will ever be fine. Unless you go by the saying that fine stands for in the other term, which I say sometimes. F’d up, Irrational, Neurotic, and emotional. Yeah I’m FINE!

    And like you I have also been guilty of saying those things. I think for me sometimes they just come out because I don’t know WHAT to say. I think being mindful of what the other person is saying, and really listening to them, is what is best. We can say anything we want until we are blue in the face, that is not going to take away how they feel or think. If it was that easy, we would all be cured by now.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts. Sorry for the book! LOL


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nonononoooo never apologise for a damn fine comment. That whole dismissive oh she’ll be fine thing is disrespectful – and yeah, your definition of fine is too often the right one. People …

      I totally agree – there are no magic words. Some stuff might help sometimes and sometimes absolutely nothing helps at all.


  4. Has a survivor of suicide it’s like some “taboo” topic to bring up with me in my circles. I reacted foolishly and cowardly upon learning of divorce. I almost orphaned my daughter and it is a regret I have to live with everyday. It’s made me stronger mentally and I try to offer advice to anybody that wants to know what it was like to “walk” in my shoes. People that have never been in that rabbit hole have no business talking to someone that has actually tried it. I am by no means an expert on this topic, but I’ve got the mental scars to add my two cents to others. Sorry for rambling, great great great post.

    Liked by 2 people

        1. Oh good – the bit about living with the regret every day … I hope that fades more for you. It’d be good if you could remember without too much residual guilt/regret.


  5. Two thoughts: One is that when someone is truly determined to end their life, there may be little anyone can do. Once someone has made a decision they are content with they appear to be improving and then suddenly it’s too late. Now I hope I will have the wisdom to hear when someone is asking for help, and be with them. What ever happened to suicide watches? Many of the families I have worked with over the years have been through watches with loved ones.

    If you needed someone I would hope there would be someone willing to sit with you all night if needed, in silence, reminding you that you matter. I know what it feels like to think I do not matter to anyone else. Yet it does not have to be a family member, friend or lover. Just someone who sees the value in us as a human being.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I reread my post – your first point is absolutely spot on, I’d meant to make it clearly in the post, but kinda wrote myself off into other rambling directions instead.

      No idea about suicide watches. My mother was rather amazing and in hindsight, was the one who did that and who sat with me etc etc.


      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hope that should I be faced with someone in need that I would hear them and have the wisdom to make sure they were not left alone. Hindsight saves no one. But then I even knew of one man who managed to kill himself in the hospital under suicide watch.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Everyone irl that I admit I’m lonely to, tells me that we are all alone and all lonely. There’s so many ways to be alone and to be lonely.


                1. Very possibly, but I’ve been lonely for most of my life and plenty of that has been unmedicated. Combination of factors I guess. Maybe we just think too feckin’ much.


  6. Can I ramble a little bit on your comment section? I mean, I’m going to take the offer of “I’m hoping people will comment about their own experiences and what might work/not work for them,” and run away with it a bit.

    In my experience what works for me first and foremost is that the other party believes me. I have been afraid of reaching out, of talking to someone because people tend to see the more cheerful side of my face and think: “Maybe she just wants attention!” No, that’s not it at all. Listen to me, don’t make assumptions, and just really open yourself up to hear me out. Not superficially, not with tough love, but with an open mind.

    In that moment I really want to die. I’m overwhelmed, tired, hurt. I am in such deep pain that I just want to disappear. The very fact that I am so useless makes me ashamed; I believe I’m a waste of space. The only possible solution to all my problems is dying. I firmly cannot see any other option.

    Secondly: don’t make it about YOU. This is more toxic to me than anything. Reminding me that my mother, family, friends, or “you” would miss me, that I would cause all these people “so much pain” only makes me feel more ashamed that I cannot bring myself to want to live, even for their sake. That only adds to self-loathing, to the mountain of burdens piled on me. Remind me you love me, but do not guilt-trip-me into staying on this planet.

    There are other things of course. These two are the biggest though. This is what hits me the hardest in my darkest hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I missed reading your posts. You would be appalled at some of the things that were said in an effort to comfort me at the hospital! People truly don’t realize that nothing matters at that point. Whether you have beautiful children, great husband, career, house. None of it matters when you have been defeated and depleted by the depression and thoughts. Missed you. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Scaaaaarleeeeetttttttttt wb wb wb!!!! And jeez you’d think a psych hospital would know better than to attempt to feed you that line. And we think we get a hard time from the muggles … I think it might be worse when it comes from those who really, really ought to know better.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Amazingly true to personal experience. THE MUGGLES DO NEED TO HEAR FROM MINDS LIKE YOURS! particularly the difference between suicidal intentions and ideations. This type of discussion is ignored by mainstream media.

    Please may I post this on my mental health – and lgbtq (often told that they’re mentally ill wrongfully) – blog jusgushing.wordpress.com ? or e-mail justgushing@gmail.com if you would like to contribute, as we are still very young right now.

    Honest connection like this is what can help the world become sane again (sometimes it’s not always just us!). We also have a barely alive twitter @JustGushing, but would love to grow our movement with contributions like this. We intend to move on to print, and non profit events, as music, film and art are other forms of expression people are currently contributing.

    Enough gushing, this made me fist pump righteously,as you are strong enough to write the words mot of us can barely say x

    Liked by 1 person

      1. haha well lovely :) I will credit the site, and if you’d like to send me a bio I can include that? Would love to repost if you continue to write such great posts!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I hung myself when I was 15 and my life was utterly unbearable. I lived because the substantial-looking metal pipe I hung myself from, broke.

      Today I have teenaged grandchildren and I am extremely grateful that I did not die that day. And yet, if I were to wake up tomorrow and find myself in that same unbearable situation, I am certain I would want to die just as badly as I did then.

      Most of the time, I’m glad I’m alive. Sometimes, I’m not. When I’m not, I try to remember that this feeling will eventually pass.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like your attitude, it’s unassuming and realistic – what drives me nuts is those kneejerk reactions of OH NOES DONT DO IT BECAUSE GUARANTEED SOLUTION AND HAPPILY EVER AFTER. That’s just an irksome logic fail.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Hello blahpolar,
    Unfortunately I am currently struggling with S.I. I have been honest with my T and told him my plans. He recently told me that he has always believed that I would end up taking my life. He has also promised not to have me committed and said last week that any other T would commit me due to my S.I. My problem is ambivalence. Not necessarily @ death but… I initially felt grateful that he seemed to understand why i was where I have found myself re:life. I was/am also grateful he acknowledges my right to self determination. On the flip side, he is my only ‘safety net’ and I’m left to wonder if he will let me die. So, I am confused. Feeling supported and unsupported. Doc

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello there. I’d be very surprised if your t would let you die … though I am very unsettled by his remarks, for example him saying he always knew you’d kill yourself. That is really not ok for a therapist to say, no matter what. And si and suicidal ideations are two horrible things to cope with.


    2. Very scary, I understand he honors your right to self-determination, but as your therapist isn’t he supposed to help you find a reason to stay?


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