It can be difficult dealing with a family member who is going through a bout of depression. However, it's vitally important that you take steps early to avoid this depression spiralling into thoughts of suicide. To help you with this, below are three tips on how to deal with a family member who you suspect may be having (or is close to having) suicidal thoughts:
Notice the Warning Signs
Most people who are experiencing suicidal thoughts do not experience these thoughts on a whim. Rather, suicidal thoughts are usually the culmination of a number of different things, which can usually be detected in advance if you know what you are looking for. Therefore, it's important to remain vigilant with family members who are upset or who have just experienced major trauma in their life. Often, these people will give off subconscious warning signs, which can let you know that they are considering suicide.
The most obvious warning sign is if your family member begins to talk about harming themselves. It may seem like they are speaking facetiously, but what starts off as a throwaway comment can soon escalate into something far more serious.
Some other, more subtle warning signs are:
Hopelessness: If your family member is talking about things as being "unbearable" or "too much", they may be giving off a warning sign.
Mood swings: Dramatic personality changes or violent mood swings can often be an indication that a person is near the end of their tether. If these continue, their violence may turn inwards, leading to self-destructive thoughts.
Preparation: If your family member is going through a tough time and starts to get their affairs in order, they may be experiencing suicidal thoughts. Of course, getting their affairs in order isn't a warning sign by itself, but if it is preceded by any of the above, it could be a subconscious cry for help.
If you notice the warning signs mentioned above, it's time to take an active approach to dealing with the problem. You may think that addressing the problem directly will push your family member over the edge; however, this usually isn't the case. Rather, taking an active approach to help your loved one may stop their negative thoughts developing into something material.
Therefore, be prepared to confront your family member and be prepared to listen to their story intently. Give them ample opportunity to offload their troubles and always listen to the details. Don't worry about saying the perfect thing, there are no magical words you can say to alleviate their troubles. Rather, give them a safe sounding board to unburden their pain and offer them relief from suffering alone.
Whilst you won't be able to say the perfect thing, you could say the wrong thing. Tough love may seem like a good idea to help someone snap out of their frame of mind; however, this is the entirely wrong way to go with someone who is considering suicide. Do not tell them suicide is selfish or that other people have it worse than they do. These tough love tactics will only frustrate your family member and make them feel more isolated than ever before.
Get Them Professional Help
Suicide is an extremely sensitive subject and dealing with a suicidal family member can be overwhelming for someone who is inexperienced in this area. Therefore, it is extremely important to get your family member professional help as soon as possible. Speaking with a adult counseling professional will greatly alleviate their troubles and will get them on the road to recovery as soon as possible.
It's important that you don't force your family member into speaking with a counsellor. If you do so, they will only retreat back into their shell and will not feel like they can open up to you. Interventions are not a good idea for suicidal people; rather, spend time speaking with them and encouraging them to seek professional help. If they seek professional help on their own terms, it will be the first small battle that they will win and will give them the encouragement to continue moving forwards.