When in the Darkness of suicidal depression there are some things that people say that Are Not Helpful, even though they come from earnest hearts.
- I’ve already lost this person to suicide, don’t you do it too. This comment puts the wellbeing of the well-wisher on the person who is already feeling miserable and likely not thinking responsibly. Better: Be vulnerable by walking into the darkness with the person who is suffering. Don’t share your vulnerability in your sadness about previous events. Previous events in your life will not break into another person’s desperation.
- You are still needed here. This just doesn’t bridge the darkness. The suicidal person can’t name any of the ways he or she is needed. Better: Offer very specific ways the person is valuable to a larger community that is very involved/invested in that person’s wellbeing.
- You are loved/I’m praying for you. This is just too generic, sorry friends. I know these can seem like the only thing you have to say. It just doesn’t break through the desperate darkness. Better: Say something specific you like about the person or about how you understand how dark/desperate/vulnerable/painful it must be right now.
So, does anything break through the darkness? The goal is to interrupt the spiral of negativity. A support system can do that in the ways listed above, plus these:
- Be open, vulnerable by walking into that deep darkness and place yourself metaphorically or physically in the middle of that darkness. Presence is Powerful!
- Once you’ve made contact and interrupted the spiral with the ideas above, then brainstorm – together – what are next helpful steps to maintain safety (who to call next?, time for therapist?, time for hospitalization?)