How to help a friend in crisis…

Helping a friend in crisis starts with knowledge.  So a good starting point is to educate yourself on the topic.  It’s also important to remember, a state of crisis can happen to anyone….seriously.

You might ask yourself, what is crisis and or how do I know when a person is in crisis?  A person is in crisis when they are in a state of mind in which they are unable to cope with recurrent stresses of everyday life.  Some stressors may include family problems, break ups (friends and significant others), school, work, bullying/trauma.

Some warning signs are:

  • Trouble sleeping-sleepiness
  • Self-harm (cutting)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depressed mood
  • Changes in eating
  • Excessive use of drugs or alcohol
  • Racing thoughts, talking really fast
  • Aggressive behavior-irritability and angry outburst
  • Excessive fear or worry
  • Mood swings
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there
  • Hopelessness
  • Grandiosity (I can do anything! I’m invincible)
  • Suicidal thoughts – ALWAYS take thoughts of suicide seriously. Signs of a severe risk are:  if they say they have intent, if they say they have a plan, and or if they have access to means (such as weapons, or prescription medication)

Let’s see if you can answer the following TRUE or FALSE statements correctly…

People who talk about suicide won’t really do it?  FALSE – A person who has talked about suicide has most likely given previous warning signs through their words and behavior.  It’s important not to ignore any suicide threats no matter how casually or jokingly said.

People who try to kill themselves must be crazy?  FALSE – And please strike the C (crazy) word from your vocabulary.  The majority of people who take their lives are often acutely distressed and or suffer from an underlying mental illness and substance abuse problem. (depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, schizophrenia)

Talking about suicidal can reduce stigma?  TRUE – Stigma and lack of understanding are the main reason this topic is avoided and considered a social taboo.  Education on this topic will help reduce the stigma, and in turn possibly save more lives.

There is a difference in suicidal thoughts between men and women?  TRUE – There have been a number of studies that have looked at the gender differences in suicidal risks and suicidal methods.  What they have determined is that women who attempt suicide tend to use non-violent means such as overdosing.  However, men will often use more aggressive means such as the use of firearms or hanging.

Suicide is not preventable, if someone really wants to do it there is no way of stopping them?  FALSE – You should NEVER give up on someone contemplating suicide.  Remember there are signs.  Do what you can to help them.  It’s important to remember that an appropriate intervention can help reverse the downward suicide thought and attempt.

By: Alix Sanchez, IMFT – Intern Marriage & Family Therapist – License Number: IMFT73990

Clinical Supervisor: Janelle Novell, LMFT – Marriage & Family Therapist – License Number: LMFT32101

To schedule an appointment with Ben Novell, MS, LMFT, LPCC,  Janelle Novell, LMFT, RPT-S or any of our therapists, please call 951-252-9911.
(Image from Google Images / relationshipsmatternow)  (Sources: Nami.org and suicide.org)