It’s been six weeks since we got the call that my brother took his own life. It’s been six weeks since my world was turned upside down and I lost my only sibling. The pain of losing someone to suicide is a different kind of grief. It is a grief tainted with the taste of regret, what ifs and if onlys.

The thing is, my family is not alone in our pain. According to statistics, 104 other people took their life that day; 104 other families are walking this same painful road with more added every day (105 Americans take their lives every day according to the CDC).


I’m a little late posting this, but yesterday, September 10th, was World Prevention Suicide Day. After what happened in my own family, I don’t feel like I can let this day pass without marking it in some way.

Unfortunately, my brother has not been the only person in my life who has threatened suicide. At least two other people have told me they wanted to take their lives. Each time, I felt sort of helpless and unsure of what I should do. All I knew to do was to keep them talking, to get them to promise to call me in the morning (it always seemed that it was in the evening when these things happened). With my neighbor, who loved her dogs, I kept telling her she had to take care of them – what would happen to them if she followed through? That sounds really lame, but at the time, it was the only thing I could think of, and I guess it worked because she called me the next morning.

The truth is, suicide kills more Americans than car crashes (CDC), so the chances of coming in contact with someone who is suicidal isn’t as far fetched as you might think. I know it isn’t really a fun thing to talk about, but knowing what to do can save a life.

According to the AFSP, over half of people who take their lives, tell people beforehand. This is why we need to talk about suicide and arm ourselves with the knowledge to help those who often can’t see their way to help themselves.

In the hopes of sparing another family the unique anguish of losing a loved one through suicide, I’m sharing seven things you can do if someone shares their intent to harm themselves with you.

  1. Ask them if they are suicidal. Sometimes, people make vague mentions of life not being worth it, or how they wish they weren’t here anymore. Asking if the person feels suicidal will not plant the idea in someone’s head. I know it’s kind of awkward to ask, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  2. Take them seriously. It’s easy to brush it off because we don’t want to really believe the person we think we know is actually serious. If the person has threatened before, it’s even easier to brush it off as dramatics or even manipulation.
  3.  Offer to take them to the nearest emergency room for evaluation. Most people who are truly suicidal will not take themselves to the hospital. They need someone to go with them. Offer to be that person.
  4. Call 911 if they refuse to get help on their own. In most areas, local authorities have to take a person in for at least a 24 hour psychiatric evaluation if their threat of suicide is reported. Yes, they might get angry with you, but the alternative is certainly much worse!
  5. Make sure everyone is safe. People who are truly suicidal might also feel desperate. Be sure that everyone in the situation is safe, even if you have to leave the immediate area to call 911.
  6. Don’t get angry with the person. Suicide seems like such a selfish thing on the surface, but for the person who is contemplating it, their thoughts are twisted. Often, people who are suicidal will say things like, “Everyone will be better off without me,” and really believe it. Sometimes, their mental and emotional pain is so great, their only thought is relief and suicide seems like the only way to get it.
  7. Don’t lose hope. According to an article in Relevant Magazine, 80% of people who seek help for depression feel better within six weeks of getting treatment. Just because someone is suicidal now doesn’t means that they will always feel that way.

Suicide is not something anyone wants to think about, never mind actually deal with, but there are probably people you know who are struggling. By being aware and arming yourself with knowledge, you might just save a life.

Blessings, Rosanne

2 Comments on 7 Things You Can Do If Someone You Love Talks About Suicide

  1. I am sorry I haven’t expressed my condolences for Scott to you before now. I have fought 2 battles with severe depression over the past 15 years and know all too well the feeling of hopelessness that happens during those periods, and in fear I distance myself from it. But in the past year I have lost 2 people I know to suicide. One was your brother Scott, who was always so full of energy and fun to be around. The other was my roommate at cedarville during my senior year, Tim Sturgis.

    There is such a perceived stigma to mental illness despite so many people being treated for it, myself included for anxiety and panic attacks with underlying depression. I have found this in the church as well, being told I needed to just lean on God. Would they tell that to a person with diabetes? With cancer? With heart disease? I encourage anyone who is struggling to get help. There is no shame in getting the help you need.

    In the Bible, Jesus performed many miraculous acts of healing. But to help myself overcome the stigma of needing help, I told myself that sometimes Jesus just cured the person…and other times he required the other person to act before they were healed. (The blind man washing the mud off his own eyes for example). It is that step of faith in getting help that many people, including Christians, fail to take.

    I regret that I had lost touch with Scott over the years. But have peace that he is with Jesus now. Praying for you and your family.

    • Thanks for your condolences. 🙂 We got your beautiful flowers and they meant a lot to me and to my parents. I too have struggled with depression and anxiety. I had pretty severe postpartum depression after Brock was born and due to some actual physical issues like severe anemia and not absorbing stuff like magnesium, I struggled with severe anxiety for a while, too. Unfortunately, especially in the church, there is a stigma about mental illness, but there are so many people who suffer silently. I have blogged several times now since my brother’s death because we need to have the conversation and quit shoving it under the rug. We rally around people who have cancer or some other severe illness, but the silence when someone has mental illness is deafening. Thanks again for sharing your own experiences. I’m sure they will help someone else. 🙂

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