#WRITERSBLOCK How To Reach Out To Friends With Suicidal Thoughts

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With ‘Male suicide week’ still fresh on our minds: Twitter reminds us that we should ‘talk to our friends’.
Ok, and say what exactly?
Friend is going through a rough break up; do we say ‘There’s plenty more fish in the sea’? ‘She’ll be back
She weren’t all that anyway
All of the above?
None of the above?
A friend is having suicidal thoughts what exactly is the right thing to do?
I’ll wait….
Anything? The answer: you are not a qualified therapist.
Not knowing what to say at the right time doesn’t mean you don’t care, it means that mental illness while commonplace (affecting 1 in 4 people) isn’t discussed nearly as much as it should be; so many of us have no idea how to handle it.
Mental illness is either portrayed as a chainsaw swinging monster or an inconsolable person in tears screaming ‘goodbye cruel world’; it’s rarely portrayed as a person becoming withdrawn, isolated or a simple change in behaviour. And unfortunately TV/Film is where most of our ideas about each other come from. This blurs the line between sad/depressed and makes people in real trouble 1. Struggle to be taken seriously and 2. Take their own problems seriously. Culture’s to blame for the simple fact that a mental health issue is seen as something to be ashamed of and seen as weak. This results in people having to suffer in silence for fear of being judged.
Again, this is cultures fault not peoples’. It’s a culture that takes mental health too seriously and at the same time not seriously enough.
If your friend has a mental HEALTH problem, as with any HEALTH problem you should take them to a doctor. Right?
It’s that simple. It’s also not. If you take them to doctor. Who’s to say they’ll go to their follow up appointment? Will you make them? Will you make them take their meds? Will you make them stay away from triggering places and people that could result in another episode? Will you keep them in a positive mindset?
With various forms of depression isolating the sufferer; as well as being a struggle to get help, it can also be a struggle to accept it. And there’s only so many times you can hear ‘everything’s fine’ before you stop asking. Which is the point. The condition is meant to isolate the person; shrugging it off at first, thinking they can handle it, until it’s too late.
The idea we should all be loaded with the correct Twitter verified responses to conversations about suicide and mental health is harmful and misguided.
Twitter shames people for failing to have the right words at the right time all the time. Sometimes those words can be:
‘Think about your parents’
‘You’ve got so much to live for’
‘Things will get better’ 
All discouraged for various reasons and valid reasons; but typically when a person reaches a level of desperation of wanting to kill themselves it’s not so much a matter of giving them reasons to live (they’ve likely been through all of them) it’s more about just being there.
There’s no easy social media friendly way that you can check up on a mental health condition. Maybe it’ll involve making space in your own life; maybe it won’t but it’s deeper than just checking in.
We’re not qualified therapists. Nothing will prepare you for having to talk your friend off a ledge. Even if you do get it right this time, there’ll be other times when you won’t; when you say the wrong thing; won’t pick up the phone fast enough, even lose your patience; none of it is apathy it’s how mental illness works.
TL:DR being there for your friends is more important than what you say. Wanting to help is half your battle. But while words aren’t everything they are helpful; so here’s some we found the most helpful:
How to reach out:

I have been feeling concerned about you lately.’

Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.

I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.’
How to help:
What can I do in this moment to help?
Do you need me to come over or would you like to come over to my place?
Here’s the number to the suicide prevention line, would you like me to be with you when you call?
Helpful words:
I’ve experienced that too. Please know that you’re not alone.
You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.’
‘You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.’
‘I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.’

‘When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.’

The most important thing is being there and listening. For further help dealing with a suicidal friend or whether you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts yourself:

NHS: Suicde Help
Mind