When someone is considering suicide, a conversation can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
For those reaching out to a friend or family member at risk for suicide, a few key phrases and ideas are vital, according to Lurie Children's Hospital psychiatrist Dr. Alba Pergjika.
First, Dr. Pergjika says, it's important to realize that by reaching out, people are usually signaling that they need and want help. So in responding, the key is making the message "very clear," saying they are not alone and they can get help. Some examples of responses include: We are here for you; we are willing to help; you don’t have to do this alone; you are worth it; there is hope; we will get you help.
In cases where someone is talking about feeling hopeless or not wanting to live any longer, Dr. Pergjika says it's important to ask them very specifically: "Are you having thoughts of ending your life? Do you feel safe?"
In the case of teenagers at risk for suicide, parents should encourage their own children to speak out about anyone they believe is at risk for suicide, Dr. Pergjika says. Then they can connect with the parents of the teen in question to make them aware their child is struggling, and in need of help.
Once the issue is established, the most important step is to encourage them to seek medical assistance. If they are looking for someone else to talk to, they can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
But there may be times when someone feels that they can't move on any longer, and are considering ending their life. When someone is in crisis, it's especially important to remind them that they are not alone, Dr. Pergjika says.
"People who are struggling with mental illness and they are having thoughts about ending their life, most of the time they feel they are not worth it, no one cares for them, no one loves them, there is no hope for them," Dr. Pergjika said.
Once again, in that moment it's important to echo to them that they matter and they can get the help they need, Dr. Pergjika says. After acknowledging they need help, someone can call 911 for immediate assistance.