If someone is considering suicide:
- Offer your help and listen. Let your loved one know their life is important to you and others. Remind the person that suicidal thoughts are a symptom of a mood disorder and that mood disorders are treatable.
- If the person is threatening suicide right then and there, or is in immediate danger, take them to a psychiatric crisis center or the emergency room of your local hospital immediately. Don’t try to handle a crisis alone. Call 911 or get help from other friends or family members.
- Encourage your loved one to call a suicide hotline such as (800) 273-TALK if they’re alone and in need of help.
- Take any threats or casual mentions of death or suicide seriously. Don’t assume the person is just trying to get attention.
- Encourage your friend or family member to refrain from taking any action and support them in receiving professional help right away.
- Don’t promise that you will keep your loved one’s thoughts or plans a secret. You may need to tell a doctor or family member in order to save your loved one’s life. Health care privacy laws do allow information sharing in an emergency.
- Find out if the person has a plan involving a specific method of suicide (for example, overdosing on pills, ending their life by using a gun) and whether they have a timeline in mind. Talking about suicide will not plant the idea in a person’s mind. They may welcome the chance to talk.
- Make sure your friend or family member cannot get hold of any types of weapons, large quantities of medication, or anything else that might be dangerous. You can remove those things from the home or make sure they are locked up safely.
- Ask the person if there’s a friend or family member who they would like to talk to now who has been helpful to them in the past.
What if hospitalization is necessary?
Sometimes when symptoms of depression or mania become severe, it’s necessary for a person to be hospitalized. This might seem scary at first, but the safe, controlled environment of the hospital can help the person return to stability.
If you think your loved one might benefit from a hospital stay, find out all you can about local hospitals and the inpatient and outpatient services they offer. Try to do this before a crisis. Find out if their insurance or Medicare/ Medicaid covers hospitalization, and if they don’t, find out about community or state-run facilities.
If your loved one is open to doing so, suggest discussing the possibility of hospitalization with a doctor before the need arises, and making a list of preferred hospitals, medications, and treatment methods for use in a crisis.
While your loved one is hospitalized, be supportive by visiting frequently and bringing comforting or familiar items. Ask the staff questions; if they don’t have the answers, find someone at the hospital who does. Don’t be afraid to be assertive about making sure your loved one receives the best treatment available. Keep records of the staff members you talk to and when.