Speaking with the Suicidal

Not intending to brag here, but when I’m offline, away from the anti-bullycide campaigning, I am working the phones for a non-profit built to assist low to no income families. They provide housing options and food banks for thousands of folks here in the greater Seattle area. My job specifically focuses on providing transportation to medical appointments. Despite being difficult, the work is quite rewarding; not to mention consistently eye opening. Specifically, the time my headset put a blunt admission in my ear from a person looking for a ride home after staying the night in the ER:

I tried to kill myself.  But I’m ready to go home. I don’t think I’ll consider doing something that stupid again.”

This person was so casual and upfront even after a traumatic night. I remember suddenly feeling choked up and thinking hard on how to voice my genuine concern. I believed this person was not only upfront but very, very brave to face the world again. (During research I’ve heard that people who have attempted or contemplated suicide don’t really want to die.)

My response: “Your feelings aren’t stupid…I really hope your doctors gave you the help you need. Please take care of yourself.” The voice thanked me for the comment and the ride. How I pray my words didn’t sound empty. Dismissive. Uncaring.

More often than not we as a society are unable to witness the true effect our comments have on others – including strangers. I wonder if the words we give to strangers somehow carry a greater impact? I don’t remember the name of the person I spoke with that day and can’t say if I was the first person outside of a doctor to speak to them. It is physically/mentally impossible to tell who is suicidal by looking at them or by hearing their voice. Tragic stories leading to suicide include missed opportunities for the kindness of others to shine through. It may not be an easy feat, but if you have the opportunity to be civil to strangers: DO IT. What if a hateful comment you make ends up being the last straw that drives a person to harm themselves or others? Your words may be the only comfort desperately needed in a life trying to work through the darkness.

Very helpful video on how to talk to someone who admits to wanting to end their life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAMAnPRLMH

16 thoughts on “Speaking with the Suicidal

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