It can be hard to find the right words to comfort someone who has lost a loved one to suicide. In honor of Suicide Prevention Week, we want to give you a few strategies that may be useful when supporting your friend:
What To Say
Experiencing a traumatic event is hard for anyone. It is important that the person dealing with loss of a loved one has a support group or person who can be there for them. This means being able listen to his or her feelings without judgement and trying to problem solve. Here are a few things you can do:
- Acknowledge the situation
- Express your concern
- Reflect on their emotions
- Be genuine in your communication, and don’t hide your feelings
- Offer your support
- Ask how he or she feels
- Be an active listener
How to Be an Active Listener
- Accept and acknowledge all their feelings
- Be willing to sit in silence
- Let your friend talk about the loss
- Offer comfort without downplaying the loss
Comments To Avoid
- “I know how you feel.” We can never know how another may feel. Instead, it may be more helpful to ask your friend how he or she feels.
- “Look at what you have to be thankful for.” Your friend knows s/he has things to be thankful for, but part of grieving is being able to experience the feelings of sadness and loss.
- “They are in a better place now.” Your friend may or may not share your religious beliefs. It’s best to keep your personal spiritual beliefs to yourself unless asked.
- “This is behind you; it’s time to get on with your life.” Moving on is easier said than done. Grief has a mind of its own and works at its own pace. Giving room to grieve is important in the recovery process.
- Saying, “You should…” or “You will…” Advice-giving, especially when unsolicited, is rarely helpful. Instead, you could begin your comments with: “Have you thought about…” or “You might…”
It is common for those experiencing a loss to feel depressed, anxious, angry, and disconnected. Sometimes, experiencing a loss by suicide will develop suicidal thoughts or feelings themselves. This is why watching for warning signs is crucial:
- Often talking or writing about death, dying or suicide
- Making comments about being hopeless, helpless or worthless
- Expressions of having no reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
- Saying things like, “It would be better if I wasn’t here” or “I want out.”
- Increased alcohol and/or drug misuse
- Withdrawal from friends, family and community
If a friend is considering suicide, get professional help right away. If they are in a life-threatening emergency, or if you’re concerned that a friend may act soon on their suicide plan, call 911.
How Can SOMA Help
SOMA Therapy has a team of professionals who can help you or you loved one with a variety of mental health concerns or warning signs. Our team uses their expertise and personal experience to develop a personalized treatment plan and solution just for you.
I think my friend is struggling with a mental health disorder. What can I do?
The first thing you can do – which you already did – is recognize the signs and symptoms. Next, you need to reach out to a professional or a trusted adult who is knowledgeable about mental health resources. You can always call the SAMHSA’s National Hotline (1-800-662-4357), confide in your school or college counselor, or reach out to your local therapist provider/clinic.
What are the possible treatment options for a mental health diagnosis?
Although treatments vary, one of the best forms of treatment for mental health diagnoses is psychiatric medication management. This treatment plan assumes a combination of therapy and counseling with a prescribed medication plan.
How does this work?
A licensed psychiatrist or a psychiatric mental health nurse will prescribe psychiatric medication to treat your symptoms or diagnosis. Clients often have biological or biochemical symptoms of anxiety, stress, or trauma in addition to their psychological symptoms. While treating the biochemical parts of mental health concerns can be very helpful, medication prescription alone will not resolve or fix your mental health. To avoid continued or worsened mental health symptoms, it is important to attend therapy or counseling during your medication treatment plan.