Supporting Someone With Suicidal Ideation - How?


What’s the best way to support someone who is dealing with strong ideation, especially when you are terrible at supporting in general?

It’s ironic because I have SI close to daily and it doesn’t faze me unless it gets really strong. But when someone else is dealing with it I panic and have no idea what to do and am terrified of misstepping.


one of the biggest things for me is letting go of the responsebility for them. i cannot make someone not kill themselves. i may be able to push someone to killing them selfs, but i cannot stop people from killing them selfs unless i physically force them not to.

and if it is online or what not that possebility is not there. i could track them down and get emerg involved but that is taking responsebility for some thing i have no real control over. that is a slippery slope because i use to do that a lot. i would get real invested in every thing and try to track people down and all that-

it was not good. so now when i deal with people who are suicidal i just let them vent and talk. validate their feeling and let them know that they are cared for (at least by me) and that i am sorry they are feeling this way. and i direct them to resources in their area that they can elect to engage with or not.


Yes, I can't second what grief said more. Suicidal ideation and people actively suicidal are different, and I have dealt more with the latter. The sense of responsibility coupled with your actual helplessness regarding it is difficult at best, frankly traumatic and damaging at worst. If they really want to kill themselves, there is nothing I can do. Oh yes I called ambulances and also picked up friends and my ex from windows and balconies and all. It's not an experience I recommend.

Supporting friends with suicidal ideation is like being supportive in general. So perhaps if you fear you might be bad at supporting in general, it could be a good place to start.

It isn't because we share similar ways of thinking or struggles that we're automatically good at supporting people with similar problems. It can be but it also can throw you off as you know these things with less abstraction than say, someone who never experienced it. So while you may understand etc., you might not have the tools to manage it or manage the rest of it -- general support. And if it's causing you a lot of fear, which is understandable, this might also impair your very capacity to be supportive.

At the end I do know I did make the difference. Without me intervening, I know the would would count 2 persons less. But if they succeeded it wouldn't be my responsibility. I'm happy they didn't because I don't know how I would have coped otherwise. I can't and won't say go away etc or abandon anyone, it's important that people do help each other, but your responsibility and capacity for action is limited because ultimately, it's theirs.

Also bear in mind you aren't trained for this, you don't work for the Samaritans, you aren't a therapists or a first responder.

First of all, you're a friend. And this is what will count to them.


But when someone else is dealing with it I panic and have no idea what to do and am terrified of misstepping.
The best thing you can do IMO is listen. Just, let them talk. If they don't want to talk about the feelings, you can also just sit with them - silence is OK, and also, they are likely to start talking. Validate and empathize - it can feel like doing nothing to say, "I understand what you're saying" - or to say "you are in so much pain, and that is such a difficult thing to be with".

Things to remember for yourself - which I know you know, just am offering as a reminder - you don't have to talk them into or out of anything. You just need to tell them you love them, and that you are there, and you're able to listen to their pain. When possible, avoid "I'm sorry (you're hurting so much, or you're feeling this, etc." - you haven't done anything to apologize for, and they may inadvertently feel badly for causing you to feel badly, which can then shut them down.

On a basic level, what you're doing is normalizing their pain, which you can do simply by listening - because suicide is something that people tend to feel they cannot talk about without there being a negative consequence. When they can talk about it, and they realize that they aren't hurting YOU, that it's OK and you can handle it - they have a chance to release a lot of that built up inner pain, grief, sadness, hopelessness - and if they can release enough of it, they will actually feel somewhat better, even if only for a short time.

Try and make sure you stay in touch with where you're at, too...I know there are plenty of times (for myself) that I honestly can't handle hearing someone else talk about suicide, it's too raw for me and I'll end up worse off. I think one of the hardest things is to have someone reach out, and not be in a head-space where you can help. It's never a bad idea if someone is struggling, to find out who else they've shared these thoughts with. You may need to call on them, to also help the friend and let you have the space you need.


What’s the best way to support someone who is dealing with strong ideation, especially when you are terrible at supporting in general?
Can’t speak to best. Can only share what I do.

I make a decision.

Am I going to…?
- Sit on them
- Hand them a gun
- Trust them
- Hand off responsibility
- Walk away

I’ve done all 5 with different people, at different times.


It was pointed out to me once that a person never commits suicide in the company of another friendly person. So be there, listen.