Social Moms

When It Hurts: Supporting a Suicidal Loved One

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January 21, 2013

Depression is real. Sufferers aren’t weak, lazy, lying or lacking in intelligence. They are in a battle for their lives. It’s not just about people who have fallen on bad times – we see young successful people, like Reddit and RSS co-developer, Adam Schwartz, committing suicide. The reasons for depression are numerous, and the severity varies, but one thing remains the same – suicidal behavior and/or dialogue should be taken seriously.


When someone has descended into a dark place, it can be next to impossible for them to find their way back to the light. For this reason, it is so important for the people around them to be familiar with warning signs and strategies for supporting someone who is struggling with wanting to end their life.

Warning Signs

Beyond just talking about suicide, or no longer wanting to live – there are some other warning signs that you should look for:

Giving Up Possessions

We all have a spring cleaning and declutter our house – but someone who is feeling suicidal might start giving away all of their belongings.  It should raise a red flag if they start parting with prized possessions or items to which they are particularly attached.  If you are feeling concerned, broach the topic.

They Have a Plan

Sometimes, people start feeling hopeless but they never get to the point where they actually think about how they would take their own life.  While all talk of suicide should be taken seriously, it is critical to take action when someone has a clear plan for how they will do it.  This means that they’ve gone over the act in their mind and, if they reach a really low point, they won’t have to think of how to end their suffering since they will have already decided.  If someone shares their plan for committing suicide, especially if they have the means to go through with it, seek help immediately.  It’s better to overact and keep them safe than to do nothing and regret it for the rest of your life.

Strategies for Support

Denial Doesn’t Help

Whether it’s a spouse, best friend, child or someone else we care about, it’s hard to admit and accept that this beautiful person no longer wants to live.  The hard truth, though, is that we can deny the reality of the situation but it’s not going to solve anything.  In fact, it will just make matters worse.  Depression and suicidal thoughts almost never go away on their own.  That person is in pain and the best thing you can do is acknowledge their suffering, encourage them to seek help and support them in a healthy way.

One Day They Might Mean It

You never know the reasons behind someone talking about suicide. You may feel like they are manipulating you into feeling sorry for them, but it’s risky to make this assumption without taking any action.  Many people look back and say “they always said they would but I didn’t take them seriously.”  Encourage the person to seek treatment and let them know that they don’t have to suffer alone. Because one day they just might go through with it.

Use Your Resources

Even if someone asks you not to tell anyone, you are justified in breaking their confidence if you are concerned for their safety.  Saving their life must be your top priority.  If they see a mental health professional, reach out to them.  If they aren’t currently in therapy and are in immediate danger, take them to the hospital or call the police.

Here are some additional resources:

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