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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Say the Word Suicide: Do’s and Don’ts

“I’d be so lost if you left me alone. You locked yourself in the bathroom, lying on the floor when I break through. I pull you in to feel your heartbeat; can you hear me screaming please don’t leave me? Hold on, I still want you. Come back, I still need you. Let me take your hand, I’ll make it right. I swear to love you all my life. Hold on, I still need you.” Lyrics from “Hold On” by Chord Overstreet.

There appears to be a pattern in my articles as of late that so many of them are ones I’ve been sitting on for years. When I heard this original song (I had only heard Amanda Nolan’s cover before), I found that the lyrics would fit perfectly into what I’d like to cover in this article: mainly the do’s and the don’ts regarding approaching someone struggling with suicidal thoughts. 

Do: Validate the person. Remember this quote and use it as a guide to dealing with someone’s struggles: “It’s not about how bad the situation is; it’s about how badly it’s affecting someone.” Saying things like, “that sounds really hard for you to be going through” and validating a person’s feelings even if you don’t completely understand them is critical. A lot of active listening skills will be key, as often the person struggling with suicide wants, above all else, for someone to listen. So try not to go too heavy on advice, unless they have asked for it!

Don’t: Correct the individual on what methods of suicide are lethal or not. You would think this would be pretty obvious, but I’ve had friends tell me before “Oh, X won’t kill you but if you do Y, then it will. But don’t do Y.” The person struggling with suicidal thoughts doesn’t need advice on what method to kill themselves with. (Unfortunately, the Internet is a common place for finding out such answers).

Do: Get help. Find resources (you could even refer to my “Treatment 101: Resources” article), stock up your phone with helpful apps and know the different avenues you can go to for extra support—not just for the individual struggling with suicidal thoughts but as a self-care measure for your sake, too! If the crisis is immediate, as in, the person struggling is actively suicidal right now contact 911 and do not leave them alone under any circumstances. At that point, medical intervention is required and they will likely be hospitalized, which may ultimately be the safest place for them.

Don’t: Do not say, “If you were really suicidal, you would have already killed yourself.” No one has to prove how suicidal they are, and I, for one, always took this as a challenge (and for me, proving my suicidality was a big issue) and had the distorted thoughts that no one would take me “seriously” unless I was dead. Which is convoluted thinking, yes, but in the moment it seems to make sense. When in a crisis, our thinking processes are warped. Rationality goes out the window, which is why having a safety plan on hand is so important with crisis centers’ numbers already written out.

Do: Provide hope. Comprise a list of people with lived experience who have survived their suicidal thoughts (such as Kevin Hines) and remind them that suicide is a permanent action to a temporary crisis, that feelings and thoughts will pass and that stability and health can be restored in the future. Remind them that this crisis will not last forever, that they are strong enough to choose to live and that life can get better again.
Do: Say you’ll check up on them, only if you mean it, and actually follow through. It’s easy to retweet these messages on Twitter without actually following through. But just a little message checking up on someone could mean the world. So, be good to yourselves, your friends and loved ones, and strangers, too!

Maybe: Depending on how well you know the person, it might be beneficial to remind them of who they have in their corner. I think wording here is pretty crucial, and I think knowing your limits in the relationship is also pretty critical. (i.e.: “I don’t know how to best help you and I want to be there for you in your time of need. What can I do to help you?”) Be careful with telling them, “But think of your family and what this will do to them,” as in my own experiences that only made me feel guiltier, and my brain was telling me that I’d be doing my family a favor by ending my life. It’s a case by case basis, I feel, on this particular do or don’t.

Is there anything you can think of that I missed?