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Finding the Words: Talking About Suicide

Talking about suicide can be uncomfortable. If you have a loved one that you are concerned about, you may be nervous to ask personal questions such as, “Have you thought about ending your life?” After all, what if you offend them? What if they get angry? Or, what if they have just been waiting for someone to ask, and now that you have, they feel safe sharing their feelings and no longer feel alone.

There is so much stigma surrounding suicide that the topic is often avoided. People who have thoughts of ending their life are afraid of sharing their feelings for fear of being judged or pitied. If you open the door for conversation with someone who is considering suicide, you may have just opened the door to get them the help they need.

Here are some questions you can ask someone you care about if you are concerned that he or she is considering suicide:

  • Have you thought about hurting yourself?
  • Do you feel like giving up?
  • Have you thought about or are you thinking about ending your life?
  • Have you made a plan, or thought about how you might do it?
  • Do you have access to weapons or other means to end your life?

When offering your support, it is important not to minimize the person’s feelings or brush off the person's concerns. Here are some things you should never say when engaging in conversation surrounding suicide:

  • You will get over it.
  • Suicide is crazy.
  • Suicide is selfish.
  • It’s just a phase.
  • It must be your hormones.

In order to become an empathetic support person for the family member, friend, or acquaintance you are concerned about, it is not only important to become a good listener, but to educate yourself about suicide. If you have questions or concerns about suicide or a person you are concerned about, please contact the Suicide Prevention Network at 775.783.1510 or visit our website at www.spnawareness.org.

Lisa Utzig Schafer is the El Dorado County Program Coordinator for the Suicide Prevention Network.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Throughout the month, Barton Health has partnered with local behavioral health providers and experts to share research and insight on suicide, a topic that can be hard to discuss.