This post was originally published on PhiladelphiaMFT.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The goal of this initiative is to educate both mental health professionals and the public about suicide and ways to prevent it. Philadelphia MFT is participating by listing what you can do if a friend or loved one tells you they are suicidal. Even though the topic of suicide can be overwhelming to deal with there are a few things you can do to help someone in need:

1. Be Open to Discussion Regarding Suicide
It is a major misconception to think that mentioning the word suicide will trigger someone to attempt suicide. That is far from the truth. Be open to having those challenging discussions; it lets people know that if they do happen to be suicidal, there are people who are willing to not be dismissive of their feelings but instead listen to what they’re experiencing.

2. Listen
You don’t have to be a mental health professional to listen and be present with someone who expresses suicidal thoughts or tendencies. One of the greatest things you can do for someone who is feeling suicidal is to listen to them when they express how they feel. Sometimes we can be too quick to dismiss suicidal thoughts but it’s important to listen when a person is willing to discuss how they feel, no matter how uncomfortable the topic may be.

3. Don’t Lecture
If a person expresses their feelings of suicide don’t lecture them about how much they have to live for in life. Even though you mean well, those phrases can come off as dismissive to the high level of anxiety and anguish a person is in. Individuals that are suicidal have intense feelings of hopelessness and are desperate to find hope past their current circumstances. Instead be empathetic and compassionate regarding their current experiences. Remain calm, positive, and offer them hope that there is help available at a safe space where they can receive proper care.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
If you feel as if a someone you care about is suicidal, don’t be afraid to speak up about it. You won’t be pushing someone towards the option of suicide just by talking about it. Being willing to discuss the topic allows for the person to understand that you care about them and their safety. It may result in them talking to you about what is going on with them which can in turn offer them hope.

5. Seek Help
There are many resources available for people who are suicidal. Hotlines, websites, mental health professionals and treatment centers are all equipped with experts who are able to best handle the situation. Below are a few resources:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Someone is always available 24/7
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)
TheTrevor Project: providing crisis intervention to LGBTQ young people

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