Why are we not asking the question, “Have you had thoughts of suicide?”
Here’s why you are not asking it.
1. We don’t know to ask it
It simply doesn’t occur to us that someone would be hurting so bad we’d miss it and not be able to stop them. Except for someone else who’s been there.
2. We are afraid the question will give them the idea
If I don’t actually say it in the presentation and even when I do, it’s usually the burning question, “If I ask, won’t it give them the idea?” Asking about suicide actually does just the opposite. It drags the taboo topic out in the open, making those who are struggling feel like they can talk about it. The scientific results that back up that statement are below.
“…Our findings suggest acknowledging and talking about suicide may in fact reduce, rather than increase suicidal ideation, and may lead to improvements in mental health in treatment-seeking populations.”
—Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information
3. We are afraid to ask it
It’s worse than asking our kids about sex. It’s hard. It’s easy now for me to ask it but the first time I did I thought my insides would cave in.
We are nervous about it so it’s often avoided. To calm yourself, practice in your car asking your windshield.
4. We are afraid of the answer
What if they say yes? Where do we go? How can I handle something this big that I can’t fix? I’m not qualified. It’s easier to dismiss it as trying to get attention or life drama. But honestly, if you have ears, you’re qualified.
5. That won’t happen to me. My loved one is fine!
It’s hard to fathom that your child who loves you would take their own life. Surely, they know better.
They know how much you love them therefore they couldn’t possibly ever consider such. But suicide is not about leaving the family but escaping pain or the voices that are telling them they should or must die. It’s feeling unworthy and just miserable.
You may think they cannot be that sad or feel that worthless. But they can and they do. Charles’ had a girlfriend who attempted suicide and he was so angry. And then empathetic but his theme was, “How could she do this to the people she loves?” So I thought there was no way he’d ever do that to himself. But he did.
6. We assume someone else will take care of it
Surely someone else who knows more will notice, intervene and ask the question. Don’t ever assume that. Worth through the discomfort. Press forward. Show compassion and say, “Tell me more,” or “How long have you felt this way?”
Always assume you are the only one that will help and see the person through it. It might mean taking them to emergency services or a psych hospital for an evaluation. But really the most important thing is to listen, be empathetic, not invalidate feelings and help them to reach out for help such as a hospital or a caring relative.
USA Suicide & Crisis Lifeline call 988
USA Crisis Text 741-741
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for Veterans call 988, press 1
USA Crisis Line for LGBTQ Youth, call 1-866-488-7386
USA Crisis Text for LGBTQ Youth 678-678
USA TransLifeline call, 1-833-456-4566
USA Suicide Prevention Lifeline & Chat for the Deaf or Hearing impaired. Or dial 711 then 988
United Kingdom Samaritans 116 123
Australia Crisis Line 13 11 14
Canada Crisis Line 1-833-456-4566
Canada TransLifeline 877-330-6366
International suicide hotlines