Suicidal feelings are frightening and painful for the person who is experiencing them and for partners, family, friends and colleagues. Anxiety and confusion about what to do and how to cope can add to a distressing situation.
If you want to support someone who is feeling suicidal, a first important step can be to stay with that person, listen and try to understand what is going on for him or her.
Some people have a strong, clear desire for death. They may feel hopeless and believe that things will never get better and it’s beyond their power to do anything about events and pressures in their life.
When someone is feeling so helpless and hopeless, it may be comforting to them to think that death is still within their control. Personal beliefs about what death will bring – nothingness, a place in heaven, reunion with the dead, reincarnation – may also bring comfort. Suicide may seem to be the only way of solving problems, once and for all, and ending the emotional pain of living.
However, self-destructive emotions, thoughts and behaviours are often far more confused than this. In the weeks beforehand, depression, hopelessness and irritability often build up. Under pressure, people may become desperate, but may still feel confused. They may not want to die. Rather, they may see death as the only way to escape an impossible situation, to relieve an unbearable state of mind, or to convey desperate feelings to others. Some may be past caring whether they live or die. An important fact for you to recognise is that, however wavering and confused their feelings may be, they remain life threatening.
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