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Five ways to help people struggling with suicidal thoughts

Hearing about deaths from suicide is always tragic. Often times, people may wonder if those who died by suicide were seeking help or at the very least talking with their friends or family members about their feelings. As someone trying to help a loved one sort through their feelings, you may wonder how much you can help. The truth is, by showing support and being available to talk, you can make a difference.   

Here are five tips to help people struggling with suicidal thoughts: 

1. Be supportive and listen: It's important your loved ones knows you are there to talk and listen to them. These types of conversations are difficult and may be uncomfortable, but it's important to not react to that uncomfortable feeling. It's okay to feel that way. Thank them for sharing with you, but try not to overstate a shared feeling. The truth is, it is very hard to truly comprehend the unbearable pain that triggers suicidal thoughts. Being there for them will help.

2. Follow up: At times, it may seem as though the person you're talking with isn't listening or is isolating him/her self. But it's important to follow up a day or two after a conversation to let the person know you're still around to talk or to listen. Let them know you're not going away. When someone receives caring contacts, they may reconsider ending their life.

3. Ask about suicidal thoughts: Go ahead and ask, "Are you having thoughts about suicide?" and then just listen. Try not to react a lot at first. It's often hard to say those words, but people may open up when asked. Plus, it shows you're open to talking about it.

4. Don't take it personally: It can be common to take comments personally, but remember the person you're talking with is going through a rough, personal time and their ability to reason and think clearly is impaired because of the unbearable pain they are going through. Try to let anger go and continue to give support. It's also important to know that while you cannot save everyone, you might be able to help them have a fighting chance.

5. Make the environment safe: Ideally you will want to work with your loved one to make their environment safe. Try saying, "I'm worried about you and I want you to be safe. Are you open to keeping things safe in the short-term?" That will open up a conversation about what item(s) may need to be temporarily removed from the house in order to keep a person from carrying through on suicidal thoughts.

If you are in a time of crisis with a loved one, you may have to take immediate action. This could include contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or by texting HOME to 741741. It could also mean you offer to take your loved one to the emergency room, or call 911. 

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