By Michele Louviere, Director of Counseling Celebration Church, Metairie
Question: My friend has been depressed and has even said she wishes she was dead. What can I do to help her?
[img_assist|nid=6061|title=Michele Louviere, Director of Counseling, Celebration Church, Metairie|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=90]Michelle Louviere responds: Many people in our society struggle with depression. One of the possible symptoms of depression is suicidal thoughts. When people are depressed, sometimes the pain are so great that living seems hopeless and the only option to end the pain is death.
Suicidal statements should never be ignored or minimized. Knowing the signs of suicide and what to do when someone is suicidal is profoundly important.
First of all, warning signs include the following: depressed mood, engaging in reckless behavior, feeling trapped, increased drug or alcohol use, withdrawing from family or friends, anxiety, agitation, inability to sleep or sleeping all the time, dramatic mood change, lack of purpose for life, writing a suicide note, giving away personal items, making a will, changes in appearance, obsessed with death, and rage or seeking revenge.
Sometimes a suicidal person will actually have a change for the better, because the decision to die has been made and the pain is lessened.
If someone you know has some of these symptoms or is actually talking about the desire to die, the best thing to do is to directly ask her if she is considering suicide. The myth is that if you ask someone, then you put the idea into her head.
This is not correct. Ask her if she is thinking of ending her life. If the answer is yes, then stay very calm, do not show shock and do not debate the person.
Be very empathetic! Thank the person for trusting you enough to share this with you.
The next thing to do is to ask if she has a plan to end her life and if so, when is she planning to follow through. If she just says that she is thinking about it but does not have a plan, then encourage her to talk to her doctor and see a counselor as soon as possible.
Hold her accountable to this and follow up to make sure that she gets help as soon as possible.
If she does have a plan and it is imminent, then more drastic measures are needed. Gently tell her that suicide is a permanent decision for a temporary problem. Suicide is one area where we should never guarantee our friend’s confidentiality.
Call her family and have them come and support her if possible. She needs immediate help.
If she will agree to go to an emergency room, make sure that she goes to the hospital. If she will not cooperate, you will need to call 911 for assistance.
You can always call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is the National Suicide Hotline. Knowing how to handle suicide could save someone’s life.
Michele Louviere, LMFT, serves as Clinical Director of Celebration Hope Center, a ministry of Healing Hearts for Community Development. For more information see www.HealingHeartsNola.org.