Karen L. Kehler, MA,  MSHA - Private- Professional- Affordable Counseling Services
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Kehler Counseling Blog


It cannot be under-estimated how many consider suicide as an option as a way to deal with a crappy day, disappointment, ongoing trials, or seemingly hopeless situations.  It is much more common than anyone probably believes - as once you're thinking about it - you tend to increase your isolation, stop reaching out and stay contained in your own world that stays 'bad' as long as you're drowning in it.      

Here are specific ways to help a person who had the courage to share or you had the courage to ASK if they were feeling - thinking - planning suicide:
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)  I also encourage clients to put this number in their phones so it is available WHEN needed.   Text it to the person you are concerned about so its in their phone.   

I also encourage doing this with all 'emergency' professionals - especially mental health psychiatrists. 
To Help Someone Else
It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide. Let us help. If someone you know has any warning signs we encourage you to call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can find out what resources are available in your area. Your call is routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area code. The local crisis center may have resources such as counseling or in-patient treatment centers for your friend or family member. Most importantly, please encourage them to call the Lifeline.
How To Be Helpful to Someone Who Is Threatening Suicide
  • Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
  • Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
  • Be non-judgmental. Don't debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don't lecture on the value of life.
  • Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support. Text - Skype- visit - invite!  
  • Don't dare him or her to do it.
  • Don't act shocked. This will put distance between you.
  • Don't be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
  • Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
  • Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.  If they have regularly prescribed pills that can be toxic - dispense them only 2-3 days at a time and secure the rest.    Secure all toxic medications in the entire household.   Warn all family/friends to secure guns and keep ammunition separated in any household the person may visit.   Rifles are not 'safer' than handguns - the desperate will use either one.     
  • Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
  • The highest risk 'days' of suicide are days before incarceration, after a significant heart break, after the loss of a job or opportunity, or discovery of a life threatening, costly illness.    Increase supervision during these events if you are concerned and they are fragile.  
  •  Hospitalization may help to stabilize their environment, get properly medicated and learn better coping skills to manage life more effectively.  
Be Aware of Feelings
Many people at some time in their lives think about suicide. Most decide to live because they eventually come to realize that the crisis is temporary and death is permanent. On the other hand, people having a crisis sometimes perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. These are some of the feelings and thoughts they experience:
  • Can't stop the pain
  • Can't think clearly
  • Can't make decisions
  • Can't see any way out
  • Can't sleep, eat or work
  • Can't get out of depression
  • Can't make the sadness go away
  • Can't see a future without pain
  • Can't see themselves as worthwhile
  • Can't get someone's attention
  • Can't seem to get control
If you experience these feelings, get help! If someone you know exhibits these symptoms, offer help!
This content was developed by the American Association of Suicidology.

In my own experience, LISTEN more than lecture!   What I have found profound is how eloquently they can describe their experience - shift their attention to their talent with words and language and encourage distracting activities that get them out of their 'head' - where they are ruminating and obsessing.    Get them to a doctor they know and trust first - if its mostly verbal - and encourage treating with prescriptions as anti-depressants are much safer than the alternative!     
Many are afraid of using anti-depressants - they are NOT tranquilizers or sedatives!!  They are NOT 'happy pills'.   They address the chemical imbalances that are causing the troubled brain functioning.   They could be considered vitamins to the brain.   If the doctor gets the custom right fit for you - you will report "I feel myself again".   They reduce the negative self-talk that is prevalent in depression.  They shift thinking away from paralyzing apathy.  They help a person be less reactive, argumentative, emotionally vulnerable.    Once they're working clarity improves and new strategies and management can take place.  When a person is struggling against depression -they also refuse my help - because it affects the functioning of their brain to be able to take corrective actions.   

I'm hearing from clients managing deaths by suicide of loved ones almost weekly lately.  The life long pain of their loss is a heart break to all involved.   We need to TALK ABOUT IT - we need specific actions to take to protect those who are considering it and we need to also talk about it openly to those left behind.    Be brave - share and listen so real support can happen.  

Karen L Kehler MA, MSHA  

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