How to Support a Man Who May Be Thinking about Suicide
THOUGHTS OF SUICIDE ARE A SYMPTOM OF DEPRESSION
Not all guys dealing with depression are going to have these thoughts, but it does put them at higher risk for it.
From Heads Up Guys
Struggling with thoughts of suicide and impulses to act on them has little to do with the strength of a man’s character or him being selfish and much more to do with how severe his depression has become.
Fortunately, with the proper supports, we know suicide is preventable. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize and address signs that someone may be considering suicide, regardless of whether he has asked for help.
If you believe that someone is at immediate risk of suicide, call 999 – when someone’s life is at stake, you can’t afford to take a chance. Below are tips to help mitigate the risk of suicide.
Talking about suicide or death
Any reference to suicide or death should be taken very seriously. Whether he says things like “I wish I was dead,” or seems preoccupied with death and wanting to escape from life, there may be reason for concern.
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
Expressions of having no hope for the future, feeling trapped, or self-loathing may be indicators of suicidal thinking. A guy might say something like “there’s nothing left for me” or “what’s the point?”.
Putting affairs in order
This could manifest as giving away possessions, saying goodbye to friends and family, or suddenly putting personal and business affairs in order.
Isolation from others
If a guy has isolated himself from others (which is unusual for him), he may be at risk of thinking about suicide.
Seeking out lethal means
If you notice a guy you’re concerned about seeking out access to guns, pills, knives, ropes, or other things that could potentially be used in a suicide attempt, you need to voice your concerns. If a man already has these objects around him, discuss if you can temporarily move them elsewhere while he’s fighting depression.
STARTING A CONVERSATION
If you suspect that a guy in your life may be thinking about suicide, you need to voice your concerns. This can be a challenging talk to have; one that requires courage. Many people falsely presume that discussing suicide will make things worse – this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you are concerned, speak up – it could save someone’s life.
- Talking to a guy about his darkest thoughts requires privacy and patience.
- Be as calm and relaxed as possible.
- Be sympathetic and receptive to what he has to say. Sometimes a guy just needs to know that it’s OK to talk about things he is struggling with.
Avoid being judgemental, lecturing, or offering to fix his problems.
Ask about suicide
With some guys a direct question is best; with others, a softer approach may be better. Start with what you feel comfortable asking and go from there.
What you can say:
- “You seem especially down recently, how are you doing these days?”
- “Do you think about or wish you could escape from life and be rid of all this?”
- “Are you thinking about hurting yourself”
- “Do you want to end your life?”
Encourage him to be honest
Encourage the guy to talk about what’s going on and to be honest.
What you can say:
- “I want to support you, but you have to be honest about how you’re doing for me to be able to know how I can help.”
- “What type of thoughts have you been having?”
- “Tell me about it – we’ve got time, I’m here to listen.”
Offer supportive comments
Reassure him that, as painful as things may feel right now, depression is treatable. Let him know that you are there to help him through this.
What you can say:
- “Just know that you aren’t alone and I’m here whenever you need me.”
- “I know it’s hard to believe now, but many guys have gotten better from depression and thinking about ending their lives.”
- “I know how strong you are. You can do this. We can do this together.”
Try to limit his alcohol or substance use
When a person is having suicidal thoughts they are in a tremendous amount of pain. He may turn to alcohol or other substances to numb his pain, but these substances can make depression worse and dangerously lower his ability to fight suicidal thoughts. As much as might be possible, try to limit his access to alcohol or other substances if he is struggling with thoughts of suicide.
PROVIDE ONGOING SUPPORT
After starting a conversation around suicide, it’s important to monitor the situation and take further steps, if necessary. Remember to be proactive – don’t wait until there is a crisis to reach out. Below, we offer some tips to help provide ongoing support to a guy who might be struggling with thoughts of suicide.
Let him know he can count on you
Regularly check-in and invite him to contact you anytime to voice how he is feeling. His recovery may be a long process and you want him to remember you’re there if he ever needs you.
Encourage professional consultation
If he hasn’t already, encourage him to consult a professional. You may want to offer making appointments for him or providing transportation to appointments. If you don’t know which services to suggest, call a health line to learn about options and services in your area. Our help page HERE
Create a safe environment
With his permission, remove potentially dangerous objects (e.g., weapons) from his living area. This may even include medications – talk to him about holding onto them or keeping them someplace out of the way.
Set up a game plan
In case of a crisis, come up with a plan for what he will do – who he can call, which health-lines should be contacted, and where the nearest hospital is. Create a list of contacts that includes friends, family, and professionals for him to contact if he ever needs to. Make sure he is on board with the plan and understand
- David, Tips from a Professional, What to Watch For (Video)
- David, Tips from a Professional, Managing Suicide Risk, Start the Conversation (Video)
- Our resources page HERE
- Our Help page HERE
- Our Brother-StayAlive App. a suicide prevention resource for Scotland. Full of useful information and tools to help #Brothers stay safe in crisis HERE