How to offer support for someone feeling suicidal (…and hope for anyone in that painful place)

I put a call out on social media to support a friend of mine whose partner was feeling suicidal. Powerful sentiments and resources poured in. For National Suicide Prevention Week in the US, we’ve compiled the unfiltered insight and hopefulness from survivors, their loved ones, and other caring souls.

May our suffering transform into liberating strength, and our despair into an incredible beauty that carries us to joy over and over again. And with deepest humility and respect for each person’s path I say: May these words save lives, and may those lives be well lived and wildly loved.

With Great Love,

Danielle LaPorte

 

 

 

 


 

 Radical Acceptance + Open Communication

 

I attempted suicide twice in my life, after that I became a crisis counselor and a coach. Out of everything I have experienced and learned… the best thing anyone ever did for me was telling me that it made sense that I was feeling how I was feeling. They made me feel like I wasn’t crazy and given everything I had gone through, it made sense I was feeling this way and even acting that way. There is so much freedom in being able to not judge yourself for feeling suicidal. That alone relieved a ton of my suffering.” – Mandy

. . . . . . .

When supporting them, saying ‘I understand’ or ‘ know how you feel’ can be a trigger. Unless we also struggle in this way, we don’t understand. We don’t know how they feel. I’ve learned that saying, ‘that sounds really hard’ or ‘it sounds like you’re really hurting’ goes much further in the way of being there. Empathy is a sketchy area sometimes.”  – Neghar

. . . . . . .

My husband of 8 years is bipolar 2, which suicidal ideation plays into… In recent years it has helped to be more open with family and friends about what’s going on, keeping quiet continues the negative stigma around mental health. Open honest communication when he is having good days is also a big factor, and respecting his bad days for what they are because honestly we ALL have bad days.” – Krissy

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My partner has had suicidal thoughts for most of his life, before meds and therapy. I’ve struggled with this myself. It’s deeply painful and scary to know your dearest one is so vulnerable. This is what I can offer, which is what I have seen him do when helping friends who come to him with suicidal thoughts: he asks them for just one more day. He doesn’t try to convince them of anything, he listens, he doesn’t try to address the issues. In the moment when the person contemplating suicide is vulnerable, he simply asks for one more day. Asks that they wait until tomorrow.” – Fanny

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I have been suicidal for most of my life, and I’m sharing this advice because it’s what has helped me the most and something I’ve never heard anywhere. The first, second, and third thing to do is calm the heck down, breathe, ground yourself, etc. When someone is suicidal, the last thing they need is their partner losing it. That’s where it starts for me. That on its own will help.” – Mary

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As a suicide attempt survivor (currently winning her battle with clinical depression), I can offer my thoughts on how to help. First, we don’t want to be fixed (I mean, we DO… but we understand that’s not your job.) What we are hoping for is someone who will love us, despite our demons… It IS hard to love someone who struggles with this KILLER. But I commend you for trying to understand. I commend you for staying. Your partner, just like you, craves and DESERVES love. I wish you both the best and much happiness and although I know I’m NEVER out of the woods, I pray your partner can get to the place I’m in.” – Leah

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Not to be a suck arse, but Desire Mapping DID help me through this very personal experience. It kept me focused on my own goals with soul, and sometimes was the only thing that helped me not to become lost in his trauma. To be able to step back and remember to take the steps to ensure my own life kept running. Just little things. Go to Yoga. Eat clean. Read the book. Talk to the friend. Connect. Laugh with the baby. What have I done today to move a little way towards my core desired state? How can I be kinder to myself in the moments when I simply can’t? That was a life saver.” – Kylie

 

Support for the Supporters

 

My son was suicidally depressed last year, and I found that therapy for ME was critical because I needed a place to go where I could stop being strong and brave, and could just lose my crap for an hour. It gave me the space I needed to hold the line at home.” – Kyley

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What was helpful for me was letting go of my desperate need for her to live and the self-expectation that I make it happen. That attachment to an outcome got in the way, from her perspective, and was expressed as another burden and pressure to carry that made it harder to reach wellness.” – Fliss

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This is a journey I have been on for the past 5 years or so. My husband has attempted more than once… Shifting my own perspectives/issues around suicide and depression and doing my own healing has changed everything. Focusing on my own healing and holding space for him while he has done his own.” – Jenn

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When he saw that I was depleted, scared, tired, defeated it didn’t prompt him to change. It just made him sadder and more defeated himself. The moments when he saw me filled up, purposed, balanced and filled with joy gave him the most hope and capacity to strive for wellness. He was no longer the ‘problem or burden’, but seeing light gave him a point to move towards.” – Kylie

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The best thing YOU can do is be good to you! Take care of you. Get rest, eat right, have fun, be well. Love your partner. Unconditionally. Be empathetic. You do NOT have to walk on eggshells. You do not have to accept your partner’s unkind words (which we honestly don’t mean but can’t help spewing).” – Leah

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As the supportive partner, you don’t always have to be strong. It can feel as though you always have to be the rock, but you’re allowed to be hurt. You have the right to take up space and be emotionally messy—but often those needs will need to be met by others. Therapy, friends, family, support groups are all very helpful. Know the number for the Suicide hotline, your partner’s therapist, or other support systems. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not in this alone.” – Neghar

 

Grief + Healing

 

I am not so sure I could have saved my Mom from suicide. I prolonged my mother’s life for 10 years by begging, pleading, and chasing after her. In the end it was her choice. My big life lesson was that I can not save people nor make them think differently. Her perception was her reality.” – Johanna

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I feel like I’m progressing… it’s not right to say ‘back on track’ or ‘back to normal’ because I’m not the same. I will never be the same again. And I am starting to feel that’s ok. I’m giving myself permission to be changed by the events in my life. To be sad and grieve. To be angry and to miss your face. I miss your voice and the way you made me chase life. I miss sharing my day with you, and the person I became around you. Patient, kind, happy, full of love.

I do not give myself permission to curl up and die because of this. Because you chose to leave us before I was ready. I say no to that. I have dreams and desires that were bubbling and blistering my soul long before you were a force in my life, and so I say no to that pull to wilt and become less than. I will force myself if I have to, but I will chase my joy ferociously. That’s how I’m progressing towards something close to myself, my home, my heart.” – Kylie

. . . . . . .

Fully Alive

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.

– Dawna Markova

 

Recommended by People Our Community…

 

Books & Articles

Support Programs

  • Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) is a two-day interactive workshop in suicide first aid. ASIST was recommended by several people in our online community and they have trainings all over the world.
  • NAMI’s Family-to-Family program supports people closest to an individual living with a mental health condition. The programs are taught by people who’ve “been there.” Research shows that the program significantly improves people’s coping and problem-solving abilities.
  • Blurt connects those who have been through depression with those who are currently struggling, to provide reassurance and comfort during a very scary time.
  • Beyond Blue is an Australian organization providing support, advice, and action for people with depression and anxiety.
  • The Canadian Mental Health Association has branches across Canada that provide a wide range of innovative services and supports to people who are experiencing mental illness and their families.
  • Emotional CPR trains people to assist others going through an emotional crisis.
  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They have hotlines for English and Spanish speakers, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and veterans.
  • PsychArmor® provides free online education for the military community, including courses on mental health and suicide prevention.
  • The Rescue Academy can teach you to coach others through the messiness of life, and show you how to have brave conversations.
  • The Sashbear Foundation teaches programs for the caregivers of those suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, many with thoughts of suicide. They facilitate programs across Canada.
  • Suicide Attempt Follow-up, Education & Research (SAFER) provides free, time-limited counselling to cope with difficult times and painful feelings. They are located in Vancouver, BC.
  • The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has online resources for both people considering suicide, and their loved ones. They have local chapters all over the United States.
  • To Write Love on Her Arms exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery of people struggling with depression, anxiety, self-injury, and suicide.
  • The US Department of Veterans Affairs provides resources for caregiver support.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous may be a key resource if addiction and substance use is a factor.
  • QPR Institute’s mission is to save lives and reduce suicidal behaviour by providing innovative, practical, and proven suicide prevention training. QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer: 3 steps anyone can learn to save a life from suicide.

 

PS: Share this with someone for strength + validation.

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How to offer support for someone feeling suicidal (+ hope for anyone in that painful place). The latest from Danielle LaPorte.
With humility & respect I say: May these words save lives, and may those lives be well lived & wildly loved. How to offer support for someone feeling suicidal.


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