My friend is talking about suicide. What should I do?

Man and women in deep thought

It is your worst nightmare. Someone you know has indicated suicidal thoughts. What do you do?

“The most important thing you can do is to take seriously what people have going on,” said Michael Williams, Salem Health mental health supervisor.

According to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education), stigma associated with mental illnesses can prevent people from getting help. Trying to convince a person that their life is not that bad, etc., may only increase their feelings of guilt and hopelessness. Instead:

  • Listen.
  • Acknowledge their pain is real.
  • Reassure them that help is available, that what they are experiencing is treatable, and that suicidal feelings are temporary. Life can get better!
  • Follow through. Help them find a doctor or mental health professional, participate in making the first phone call, or going along to the first appointment.

If you feel your friend or family member is in immediate danger, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room. Never keep a plan for suicide a secret. It is better to lose a relationship than it is to go to a funeral.

“Our emergency department helps people with suicidal thoughts every day,” said Williams. “Don’t hesitate in coming to the ER for help.”

Friendly voices in difficult times

“If you have a loved one in crisis that is feeling really bad, but not physically unsafe, the Marion County Psychiatric Crisis Center is a good option,” said Williams. They are open 24 hours a day and can be reached at 503-585-4949.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers a phone hotline (800-273-TALK (8255)) and a free chat service.

For people who prefer texting to calling, the national Crisis Text Line is also an option. Text “GO” to 741-741 to speak to a trained counselor anytime, day or night.

People living with mental health issues may also find comfort attending a support group at Salem Health’s Community Health Education Center (CHEC).