There is nothing more precious than the gift of life itself and within our community, there are individuals engaged in a deeply personal battle—a battle that prompts them to question whether life is worth living amidst the overwhelming emotional pain they endure. As the world continues to twist and turn, for some who were already ambivalent about life versus death before— their pain may increase, fueled by fear, isolation, anxiety, hopelessness, trauma, and loss (there has been so much loss).
Yet, it is important to understand that most individuals who contemplate suicide do not truly wish to die. Rather, they yearn for respite from their torment, a glimmer of hope that affirms their worth, and the reassurance that we, as a society, are incomplete without them.
When someone is in the throes of depression and contemplating suicide, reaching out for help becomes an arduous task, particularly when they believe that no one truly cares. Therefore, the responsibility lies with each one of us to pay attention to those around us, to be unafraid of broaching the subject of suicide directly. While it may be uncomfortable to confront this issue when we ourselves are in a state of well-being, we must consider the immense difficulty faced by someone who finds themselves in a place of darkness. Allow me to empower you with some vital facts:
Extensive research confirms that asking about suicide does not "plant the seed" of such thoughts in an individual's mind. In fact, most individuals will experience relief knowing that someone genuinely cares enough to initiate the conversation.
You have good instincts! Always assume that you are the only one who notices and who will reach out. If you suspect that someone is struggling, trust your instincts, and ask them directly without delay.
Don't yield to perfectionism. There is no foolproof method of asking. Take the time to practice what you want to say, vocalize it aloud, and then proceed with compassion and determination.
Here are some suggestions to help you initiate a general check-in conversation with a friend:
"How are you, really? I'm sitting down to listen"
"I care deeply about you and wanted to check in on how you're doing. Can we have a real talk? I'll call you this evening."
"I noticed _______, and it worried me. What's going on?"
When it comes to addressing the topic of suicide directly, consider these approaches:
"Are you having thoughts of ending your life?"
"Have you been thinking about killing yourself?"
"Has it been so tough that you think about taking your life?"
"Have you been thinking about not being here anymore, like not living?"
Simply feeling connected, seen, and heard by a loved one can reduce pain and often be enough for someone to begin exploring alternate paths to end their pain— a path that includes living!
Lastly, while I encourage you to engage in these conversations, I want to emphasize that you are not alone. Trust your instincts. If, after having this discussion, your intuition tells you that your loved one is not safe in their own company, do not hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 from anywhere in the US. This is a FREE 24/7 free resource that I encourage you to use (yes, it's a good resource for Black people too). A counselor will ask you to describe the situation and they will help you assess your options for getting help to the person. You don't even have to identify yourself to make the call and can have the entire conversation anonymously if you choose.
May this information prove invaluable, and may we, together, save lives 💚.
For more information on initiating conversations about suicide, please visit suicideispreventable.org
If you are personally thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988. A skilled counselor is available 24/7 to talk, answer questions, and help you navigate this challenging situation. You are not alone, and help is just a phone call away.