As you begin reading, please know: The National Suicide Prevention Line is available 24/7 in both English and Spanish. They are available by phone and chat at 800-273-8255.
There have been so many advances in technology over the years. It seems like once the internet was born, then came along computers and cell phones, and so on and so forth. Technological advances are hard to keep up with! These advances come with pros and cons. Technology has increased not only how many people we can communicate with, but also increased the speed at which we can communicate. It has increased access to mental health care for millions of people, access to online support and chat groups, and increased access to education.
As the stigma surrounding mental health issues decreases, people feel more comfortable sharing their mental health experiences with others via text messaging, online chats, and social media. While this availability to share and ask for help is beneficial to many, it is also important to talk about how many people seeking assistance may not be asking qualified mental health professionals for assistance. This can lead to worsening health conditions or even possible harm.
With all that said, we’d thought we take some time to discuss how you can help a suicidal friend over text message. But first:
What Does It Mean to be Suicidal?
Lets talk about what it means to be suicidal. The word itself can be scary to many people. Imagine how people who might be suicidal may feel. It can be a very lonely place and can feel too difficult, scary, or overwhelming to talk to anyone about it.
When a person is suicidal, it means they are experiencing thoughts about harming themselves in a manner that will result in death or having thoughts that they want to be dead. Unfortunately, suicidal thoughts are very common. The American Psychological Association tells us that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
The National Institute of Health tells us that asking someone about suicide or talking to someone about suicide will not put the idea in their head. If someone you know is experiencing depression, or expressing thoughts about not wanting to live, asking them directly “ Are you thinking of killing yourself?” can help identify if someone is at risk for suicide.
Suicidal thoughts can happen to people who are struggling with significant depression, substance use, or serious stressors that are occurring in life. Often referred to as Suicidal Ideation, suicidal thoughts are when people may think about “not being alive” or “things being better if they were dead.”
They may or may not tell someone they are feeling this way or thinking these thoughts. Some people who experience suicidal ideation may also start to develop plans on how to end their life, and some people may even ensure they have the means necessary to carry out their plans.
All suicidal thoughts and ideations should be taken seriously. Anyone experiencing these thoughts should know that there is help available. Remember: The National Suicide Prevention Line is available 24/7 in both English and Spanish. They are available by phone and chat at 800-273-8255.
How To Help A Suicidal Friend Over Text
So what do you do if someone shares with you over text message that they are feeling suicidal? Maybe it’s happened already to you. Someone may text “I’m done with everything”, or “I just want it all to end” or send some other kind of text that has you wondering just what exactly do they mean?
Well, a great place to start is by asking for some clarification. It’s important to remember to use words that help get your empathy across. When texting, people cannot hear our tone of voice or see our facial expressions to help convey our concerns.
A good example of a text message would be “It seems like you’re really upset. I am here for you. Can you tell me more about what is going on?”
Of course, someone may come right out and text you that they are feeling suicidal. They may not directly use the word suicide, but they may say they want to die or wish they were dead, or are planning to kill themselves.
These types of statements can be shocking and upsetting to read. You may not have a clue how to respond. A first step is to avoid silence via text.
So what do you say?
First, you can start with acknowledging how the person feels. Make it personal by addressing them by their name in the text message.
“Sam, I am so sorry to learn you are feeling this way. Thank you for telling me. I want to help you.”
Something along these lines is a good place to start. If you are not sure if they are suicidal or having thoughts to harm themself, it’s important to ask about that directly. Remember, you are not going to give them the idea to harm themself.
You can ask “ Are you thinking of killing yourself? “ or “Are you planning to harm or kill yourself?”
If they are not having suicidal thoughts and express they are feeling upset and depressed, it could be helpful to chat more and learn about what is behind the feelings and what they think might be helpful to feel better.
Healthy coping techniques for feeling better are ideal- such as talking about feelings, seeking help from a mental health professional, or chatting with a support group or crisis line. Unhealthy coping techniques such as using drugs and alcohol, or other harmful behaviors shouldn’t be encouraged.
How to Take Action
If your friend does admit they are feeling suicidal and thinking about hurting themself, it’s important to take some action.
First, if you are able, find out where they are located and make sure they are safe. It also feels really important to keep what your friend tells you confidential. However, if your friend is having thoughts of suicide, it might be time to call for professional and emergency help.
You can encourage your friend to call a crisis hotline, or call together. You can also offer to take your friend (if possible) to a crisis unit to talk further with a counselor to help figure out how to keep your friend safe. If your friend doesn’t want to do these things and you are worried they will harm themselves, you may need to call 911. Police can respond immediately and ensure that your friend is safe. They can also dispatch for a mobile crisis team to speak with your friend and determine how to get them the help they need.
If you are a kid, teen, or young adult who lives with parents or guardians, they may also be able to help you figure out how to help a suicidal friend over text and when to call for emergency or professional help.
Things to Remember
Safety is the most important thing. People who are experiencing suicidal thoughts are not in a frame of mind where they can think about all the reasons not to harm themselves. Trying to guilt or shame someone into not being suicidal isn’t helpful at all.
The best approach is to listen openly about how they are feeling and why they are feeling that way. If you believe they may harm themselves, get more help to keep them safe. You can work through any anger or upset feelings they may have about you getting help to keep them safe. But if they do not stay safe, you won’t ever have that chance.
Keep Your Friend Safe With Bright Harbor Healthcare
Now that you know how to help a suicidal friend over text, leave it to the professionals to give them the in-person treatment they need. Bright Harbor Healthcare offers crisis services and outpatient services to stabilize and treat your friend. Our trained professionals can help them navigate their crisis, overcome any obstacles, and plan their ongoing mental health needs.
Many individuals with suicidal thoughts also suffer from major depressive disorder. If you or your friend are over 18, you may want to consider other effective treatment modalities including TMS. Suicidal and depressed patients may feel like things will never get better. However, lasting relief may be available to you.
Reach out to our team of compassionate professionals to begin a better tomorrow for you or your friend. Regardless of what you may be feeling, Bright Harbor Healthcare is here for you.
Psychiatric Emergency Screening Services in Ocean County NJ: 732-886-4474 or toll-free 866-904-4474
National Suicide Prevention Line: 800-273-8255.
Teen Link: Text or Call 866-833-6546; Daily 6pm-9:30pm