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crisis help

How to Help

If you are feeling suicidal...

If you are feeling like you want to kill yourself, we want to help. We know you are hurting right now, but you don't have to go through this alone. Here are some some suggestions for things you can do right away to help yourself get through the immediate crisis and to have a chance to find other solutions. 

Talk to someone who has experience helping people in your situation: 

  • a crisis or suicide helpline 
  • a private therapist, counselor, or psychologist 
  • a community mental health agency 
  • a school counselor or teacher 
  • a family physician 
  • a religious/spiritual leader 

Before you find yourself in crisis, develop a list of things that you can do when you are in crisis for support.

When you find yourself getting overwhelmed, go down your list and do each thing until you are able to go on. For instance, your list might include: 

  • Do some deep breathing exercises. Count to ten while breathing. 
  • Take a hot bath. 
  • Call a crisis helpline (keep the number with you, in your cell phone and bookmarked on your computer). 
  • Eat your favorite food. 
  • Watch a movie on TV. 
  • Read a magazine. 
  • Write in a journal. 
  • Call friends or support people (keep their numbers with you and by your phone). 
  • Go for a walk. 

Your list should contain many items that help you to calm down, and may not be like the list above at all. The important thing is that it is useful to you.

Avoid using drugs and alcohol when you are feeling desperate or in a crisis. 

Although it is tempting to try to use them to try to numb painful feelings, they can make your emotions more volatile, and affect your judgment. Using drugs or alcohol while you are in crisis will greatly increase your risk of hurting or killing yourself impulsively, even though you may not have fully made a decision in that direction. 

Give yourself today. 

The option of killing yourself isn't going to go away. It is a choice you can make tomorrow or next week or next month, if you decide that's still what you want. When you are feeling so bad that you want to kill yourself, the thought of just surviving the days ahead can seem exhausting, overwhelming, and unbearable. 

So try to focus on just getting through today, not the rest of your life. Your coping ability is greatly weakened right now. You may not be able to imagine getting through this -- but your thoughts can play tricks on you when you're in crisis. So don't try to handle thoughts of the future right now; just make a decision to get through today. Today may be painful, but you can decide to survive it and give some other options a chance, at least for a day. 

Remember that however alone you feel

...there are people who want to talk with you, who want to help. Call a crisis helpline to talk with someone like that right now. 

If you are worried about someone else who is suicidal...

Recognize Warning Signs for Suicide Risk: Remember anyone can feel suicidal. Review some of the common warning signs. 

What You Can Do If Think Someone May Be Suicidal: 

  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide. Ask the person, "Are you thinking of killing yourself?" Don't lessen the reality of the situation by using phrases like "ending it all" or "going to sleep." Gently hold up for the person what kind of decision they are really making. 
  • Listen to the person in crisis. Allow expressions of feelings, including feelings about wanting to die. Accept the feelings, even if they scare you. Let the person cry or scream if needed in order to get their feelings out. 
  • Make a specific contract with the person to call you, a crisis helpline, or some other person or agency before they do anything to hurt or kill themselves. If the person won't make such a promise, it is not safe to leave them alone for any period of time. Make sure someone stays close by the person (in the same room, in visual contact) and get outside help immediately. 
  • Try not to say things like "It's not so bad" or "Things will get better soon." This invalidates the overwhelming feelings that the suicidal person is having and can cause them to feel very alone. Instead, try to say things like, "You feel so terrible right now that you can't see any way out other than killing yourself." That lets the suicidal person know that you can hear how desperate they feel. 
  • Try not to be judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life. Don't talk about suicide in judgmental terms, such as "doing something dumb." 
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support. Let the suicidal person know that you care about them. 
  • Don't underestimate a threat of suicide. It's natural to want to believe that a friend or loved one isn't at risk, but the fact is that people who threaten to commit suicide often do commit suicide. By the time friends and family become aware of the suicidal thoughts, the risk of suicide is often very high. Take the person seriously. Never dare the person to do it or tell the person that you don't think that they would be able to do it. Do not deny or minimize the idea that the person is serious. 
  • Try not to act shocked. This will put distance between you and the suicidal person, and they may feel like you can't understand. Show them that you want to understand and that you are not going to turn away or reject how they feel. 
  • Get support for yourself so that you will be able to support the suicidal person. Do not agree that you will keep their thoughts of suicide secret. Let them know that you will be there to love and support them, and that you will need to get more support for both of you. Don't try to handle a suicidal person by yourself. Bring in other friends or family or call a crisis helpline for support. 
  • Try to find out how the person plans to kill himself or herself. Do they have a specific plan, with the time, day and/or method picked out? The more specific the plan, the greater the risk. Some methods of suicide tend to be more lethal than others. For example, if a suicidal person plans to use a firearm, that represents a very high level of risk. However, almost all methods carry serious risk. Remember that some over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can be life-threatening, even in relatively small doses. 
  • Remove the method, such as the gun, pills, or knife. Call law enforcement or the police if there is immediate danger involved to yourself or to the person in crisis. For instance, you should not try to get a gun out of the hands of a suicidal person. You could end up harming both yourself and the other person. Law enforcement officers are trained to handle dangerous situations, and you should let them intervene. 
  • Get help from experts. Call your local suicide or crisis helpline (e.g., 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or ContactLifeline 1-800-262-9800). Get in touch with a therapist or counselor who has experience working with suicidal clients. Delaware has laws allowing for short-term, involuntary evaluation and hospitalization for people who demonstrate suicidal intent. Suicide helplines are often able to provide you with information and talk with you about what your options are.