Ask in Earnest
How you can help someone suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts
How to Help
Researchers have demonstrated that one suicide has a deeply impacts 25 people, and another 115 are exposed to suicide’s devastating impact. One hundred forty people can be a significant portion of many communities in Montana and other frontier/agricultural states.
You don’t have to be a professional mental health counselor to help save a life. Just as our name indicates, asking in earnest can make a difference.
- Spend time with that person, whether it be over a cup of coffee in the local café or a roadside chat.
- Listen to what they are saying. Does the person speak positively about the future? Do they display a sense of hopelessness? Does the person say things such as “ending it all” or make comments about death and dying?
- Consider what events are happening in his/her life. Do you know if they are experiencing a financial hardship? Are they going through a major life change, such as a divorce or death of a loved one? Are they experiencing significant health issues? Do they seem to be isolated, whether geographically or emotionally?
- Ask in Earnest if they have are thinking about taking their own life. Obviously, this can be a very uncomfortable and difficult question to ask, but it is VERY important. Use care to not ask in a judgmental way. “Are you thinking about suicide?” creates an opportunity for them to answer honestly and openly versus “You’re not thinking about suicide, are you?”
- If they answer “yes”, remain calm (understandably this can be difficult) and reserve judgment. You’ve given your loved one/friend/neighbor a wonderful gift of open and honest communication and by continuing to talk, the person is indicating he or she wants help!
- Do not make promises such as “I won’t tell anyone”. This is a life-threatening situation. Professional help is needed, not secrecy.
- If someone talks of suicide, take them seriously, and not that someone is “just wanting attention”.
- Ask them if they have thought about a plan to take their own life. In Montana, firearms are used in approximately 2/3 of suicides. Ask them if you or another trusted person can have store their guns and ammunition until this crisis has passed. This is NOT gun control. This is about saving their life. Research has shown that reducing access to lethal means increases the likelihood of a person surviving a suicidal crisis.
- Offer hope and enlist help. Your loved one/friend/neighbor is very lucky to have a kind, compassionate, concerned person such as yourself by their side. And now is the time to bring others into the conversation. You can say something such as, “I care for you and I want you to live. Can I take you to the local emergency room” or “I care for you and I’d like to stay here with you and call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline and get their help.” Studies have shown that the risk of suicide declines sharply when people call the national suicide hotline: 9-8-8
Do not leave the person alone. It’s a good sign they are talking with you about their plans. Chances are they will willingly accept help. If they cannot or will not accept help, immediately call 911.