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How to ask for help when you're feeling suicidal

Dr. Joti Samra

July 15 , 2020

RESILIENCY

Feeling Suicidal? How to ask for help

Over the last decade, conversations about mental health and suicide prevention have become more prevalent. More people are becoming aware of the importance of mental health on our overall health. But unfortunately, we still have a long way to go and stigma is still affecting our ability to ask for help when we’re feeling suicidal or struggling at all. 

It’s important to remember that mental illness or thoughts of suicide are not a sign of weakness or a reflection on your character, and asking for help is an incredible show of strength. Know that you deserve support regardless of what in your brain is telling you otherwise. Also, know that help is available. Even if the first person you reach out to is not as helpful as you hoped, try again. Not everyone has the ability to be supportive and that is not a reflection on you. If you don’t have someone in your personal life you rely on, know that there are always crisis lines and professionals who have the training to provide you with the support you need. Don’t give up on support altogether, even if it takes some time to garner it. 

How to ask for help when you’re suicidal 

Many of us may struggle with asking for help when we’re suicidal because we don’t know what to say. We may not know how to express the feelings we are experiencing, and we may not know what we need or what type of support someone is able (or willing) to offer. These conversations are never going to be perfect, and we are never going to find the perfect words – but saying something is better than nothing. 

So, here are some suggestions on how to start these conversations and help to keep yourself safe. 

1 “I am really struggling and don’t feel safe right now, can you stay on the phone with me until I calm down?”

  • Not being alone can be incredibly helpful when you’re feeling suicidal 

2 “I am feeling [depressed/suicidal] and I don’t know what to ask for, but I don’t want to be alone right now.” 

3 “I’m struggling right now, but I’m not ready to talk about it. Will you help to distract me?”

  • It’s okay to not be ready to dive into an in-depth conversation about your feelings, but this way you can still let the people in your life know that you’re struggling. This can help them be more prepared to help you in the future, and in the meantime, you can benefit from social time and distraction from your current thoughts.

“I’ve been struggling with my mental health and what I’ve been trying isn’t working. Will you help me make a better plan?” (set a particular time and date to do it)

  • Problem-solving with another person can make a huge difference in finding creative solutions. This may also be an opportunity to develop a safety plan for those moments when we are not feeling safe. We talk about how to make a safety plan in-depth in another article (article to come). Note that setting a particular date and time is an important aspect of this. Not only does it ensure that you make time to do this together, but having a plan to work on solutions in the near future can give us hope that we can work through these things. 

5 “Can you check in with me [at a particular time / every day] just to make sure I’m alright?”

  • Having someone check-in with you every day helps you to feel more connected and forces us to not isolate ourselves when we are feeling unwell. This type of check-in routine can be approached in many different ways. For example; plan to be self-care buddies and message one another with one thing you’ve done to take care of yourselves each day. Or ask to exchange funny selfies to help lift one another’s mood. 

6 “I’ve been really low. Can you remind me of something you like about me?”

  • When we are feeling low it can be really easy to think that no one likes us, that we are a burden, or that the people in our lives would be happier/better off if we were gone. Getting a reminder from someone you care about why they like you or having them share a positive memory of the two of you together is a simple thing that can make us feel better about ourselves. Note: this is not fishing for compliments, despite what your brain might be telling you. 

Final Thoughts

Asking for help when you’re suicidal can be challenging. Often it can be helpful to be blunt and say that you are feeling suicidal so the person you are reaching out to for support can better support you. It’s not easy to ask for help, but it is strong and it is brave and hopefully, the more we talk about suicide the easier it will be for people to ask for help. 

Check out our Coping with Suicidal Thoughts for more resources, information, support, and practical steps to help cope with suicidality. If you or someone you love is at immediate risk reach out to 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) for 24-hour support.

 

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