How To Talk (And Listen) To Someone Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts

How To Talk (And Listen) To Someone Experiencing Suicidal Thoughts

It’s terrifying to hear a friend or loved one say they’re having suicidal thoughts. Your first reaction might be to yell at them or call the police or even distance yourself from them for fear of doing more harm.

But don’t panic. Talk with them about these thoughts, thoroughly listening to what they have to say. They need your support more than ever at this point, and talking and listening appropriately can help keep them safe.

At ReYou ketamine infusion clinic in Howell, New Jersey, we understand the stressors and underlying conditions that can lead someone to have suicidal thoughts. That’s why we encourage friends and family members to become well-versed in speaking with someone who’s suicidal. You can make an enormous positive contribution to their life.

And when such thoughts become intrusive, we offer ketamine therapy to help rewire the brain connections that lead to those thoughts. Here, we provide some guidance on navigating this tricky situation.

What leads to suicidal thoughts?

Chronic depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and many other mental health issues can wear you down to the point where you feel you’d be better off dead.

So an overwhelming stressors like financial problems, grief, chronic pain, or being diagnosed with a disease.

Understand, though, that thoughts are naturally malleable, and they can shift quickly. What seems impossible at the moment might feel solvable after a good night’s rest. Rather than act hastily, tell yourself you won’t do anything for at least 24 hours to give your brain time to mull it over.

But if you recognize you need to get immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or dial 988 for professional intervention.

And if you’re in the friend/caregiver role, understand that nothing is set in stone. You have the power to change this person’s mind with appropriate listening techniques and effective communication.

How to talk and listen effectively

Your goal is to be supportive and empathetic, no matter what the situation. Never be judgmental or dismissive of what the person is experiencing, because to them, it’s very, very real. Here are some tips to guide the conversation.

Speak from the heart

If you’re speaking out of love and concern, there are no absolute right or wrong things to say. In fact, just by being there for your friend or loved one, you’re showing your support.

Give them time to form their ideas, hold them when they cry, and acknowledge that you understand their despair feels very real. Research has demonstrated such acknowledgment can help them process their thoughts and may even reduce their suicidal tendencies.

Listen with intent

Talking too much can seem dismissive. Someone who’s suicidal is usually carrying around a burden they feel they just can’t bear anymore, and by listening carefully, you can help them lighten their load.

Let them share their despair, anger, and loneliness, and wait for them to indicate when you should respond.

Validate their feelings

Be sympathetic, patient, calm, and completely nonjudgmental in your response. To this person, their feelings are very real and immediate. Your acknowledgement of that reality helps them pick up on your attitude and begin to mirror it for themselves.

Keep them talking

Talking allows the person to unburden themselves and gives them time to calm down. The longer you allow them to talk, the more you reduce their sense of desperation. And calming down makes it harder for them to act on their feelings.

Don’t try to solve the problem

Offering quick solutions to a person’s gut-wrenching feelings belittles them and their problem. They’re hurting right now, and that’s all that counts. Don’t try for rational arguments, as they’re not in a rational state of mind.

Instead, offer empathy and compassion for what they’re going through without making any judgments about whether they should or shouldn’t feel that way.

Look after yourself

Being there for a friend or loved one who’s suicidal is incredibly stressful, but the last thing you want is to end up in distress yourself. Once things have calmed down, talk to a friend or therapist who can help you process your own feelings.

If you need more tips on helpful listening techniques, or if you want to learn more about how ketamine therapy can ease the burden of suicidal thoughts, call us at ReYou at 908-638-1133 today.

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