How to Help A Friend Who Shares Suicidal Thoughts on Social media #SuicidePrevention - GODYEARS

How to Help A Friend Who Shares Suicidal Thoughts on Social media #SuicidePrevention

September 10, 2017

The theme this year (2017) for 'World Suicide Prevention Day' is 'Take A Minute, Change a Life."

Suicide survivors often talk of how they hoped even a single friend would respond. Sadly, even today, we lose good souls to suicide because friends did not identify those cries for help or even more tragically, did not make a basic effort to just talk for a few minutes.

Like with everything else in life, social media has insinuated its tentacles even into these cries for help in today's day and age. Go through your time line - from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram posts or messages in Whatsapp chat groups - and look beyond the smiley faces that punctuate a sad comment. You may actually find it staring back at you right now - a friend's desperate cry to be saved.

How to Help A Friend Who Shares Suicidal Thoughts on Social media #SuicidePrevention - World Suicide Prevention Day - Godyears

What do you do when you come across a friend whose social media post suggests they may be considering suicide? 



01. Choose to help them.

The first real step is the most simplest and yet, the one least done. Yes, social media is a vast ocean and there are other closer friends and family for this person. You may not even be close. But you are a friend. 

It will not hurt you to type down 140 characters inquiring about their well being. It is ten seconds for you. It maybe the difference between life and death for them.

02. Be compassionate.

When they talk of how they feel, be kind even if you disagree with their interpretation of their problems. Reply with 'I am there to listen to you', 'I am sorry you have been feeling this way' and 'You matter to me'.

Do not mock their feelings. Avoid statements like 'Others have it worse than you', 'It is just a silly exam/guy/girl' or 'God will not forgive you.' Making someone who is on the edge feel even more guilty is never a good idea.   

03. Assess and Alert

I wish kind words were enough but yes, the reality is that by the time someone posts something sorrowful on social media, the pain has overwhelmed them. You need to be frank with them and ask them directly if they have been thinking of suicide

If so, assess if they have the means to commit suicide (poison, sharp instruments.) Again, you can directly ask this question. Often you will be surprised by the honesty of their answers when the right question is asked in this vulnerable state. It is imperative that you understand that you are not putting the idea in their head by talking to them of suicide.

If there is an immediate danger, consider alerting friends on their time line who may be nearby to their location. Inform them of your conversation and make them aware of the urgency of the situation.

While you may know all the tricks for getting Facebook likes and shares, allow me to add a life-saving addition to your knowledge - Facebook's Page to Report Suicidal Content.      


04. Help them connect to Suicide Helplines

One of the saddest facts in Suicide Prevention is the fact that none of us - NONE OF US - know or have the numbers of suicide helplines in our contact lists. If you find your friend willing to consider talking about his/her feelings but unwilling to trust friends and family, redirect them to a suicide helpline which allows the benefit of anonymity.

Please note here that you must be clear to your friend that you are not abandoning him/her. Make a deal to reconnect once they have finished talking to the helpline.

For your convenience, I am sharing the numbers I have come across for Suicide Prevention Helplines in India.

A list of the Suicide Prevention Helpline phone numbers in India
I chose a blue candle for this image because as per 'Candle Magic' based on colour therapy, the blue candle signifies 'Opening Lines of Communication'

Aasra (Mumbai) 02227546669
Icall (Mumbai) 02225521111
Nagpur Suicide Prevention Helpline 8888817666
Connecting India 9922001122, 18002094353
Lifeline (Kolkata) 03324637401, 03324637432
Saath (Ahmedabad) 07926305544, 07926300222
Roshni (Secunderabad) 04066202000 
Maitreyi (Pondicherry) 0413339999
Jeevan (Jamshedpur) 06576453841
Sneha (Chennai) 04424640050
Sumaitri (Delhi) 01123389090
Cooj (Goa) 08322252525
Pratheeksha (Kochi) 04842448830
Maithri (Kochi) 04842540530
Thanal (Calicut) 04952371100
1Life 7893078930

I am also redirecting you to the Emotional Support Helpline Directory app launched today (10 September 2017) that gives you an even more elaborate list of all the suicide helplines in the country. Please download it. It is, literally, a life saver.

05. Follow up the next day.

I always come back to that inspiring sentence which was the campaign of 'To Write Love on Her Arms' in 2015: "We will see you tomorrow." Show them that someone is looking forward to hearing from them the next day. 
It is a few kind words via direct messages or a call at most. But you can save their life by reminding them of what they have forgotten - that they matter in this world.

Suicide accounts for a life every 40 seconds globally. WHO states that for every adult who committed suicide, there are 20 more who attempted it. Think of those numbers. In 2012, India was estimated to have the highest number of suicides in the world by WHO. 
We must do better if we are to save our friends. 
I hope when the time comes, you will hear their indirect cries not just in real life but on social media too. I hope you will make the time for them and help them off their ledge. I hope you will inspire them to live once more.

I will see you tomorrow, my friend.



Authors note:

Every year on September 10 - World Suicide Prevention Day, I write on the topic of Suicide Prevention. 



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36 comments

  1. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Unfortunately, people who kill themselves don't realize tht their problems can end without their death. Thank you for those ideas on how to communicate with someone who is thinking about suicide.

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    Replies
    1. It's just that when hope fades away, we as friends have a responsibility to light the lamp for them long enough to get them back out of the darkness. And often, we too don't know how to react

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  2. Of all things - be compassionate. I have had people who have openly mocked mental health issues as if they are all cooked up by a person for attention or much worse - compensate for lack of efforts in life.

    It is amazing that even in 21st century we are losing people to something that can be treated perhaps with kindness alone. Thank you Roshan for all your efforts in this direction and hope to take your voice as far as possible

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    Replies
    1. You talk of regular people. I have seen the same cruelty done by specialist doctors, often goading people beyond the brink. The less said, the better.

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  3. It is saddening to hear about so many young people committing suicide. Your article is insightful. we as a community and a part of the society should be compassionate and try and understand if we find someone suicidal or if under mental stress. Thanks for the info on the helplines.

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    Replies
    1. I'm still looking for more helpline details. That's why have updated it now adding the app as well which links to far more Helplines.

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  4. One of my cousins is going through a phase. I keep talking to her, hearing her problems, lending a compassionate ear. Keep reminding my cousins and aunts not to get irritated with her but to try and understand. We've talked about visiting a doctor. It is so important to make people who suffer from depression and anxiety feel that you are there for them.
    Thanks for this informative post and spreading awareness.

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    Replies
    1. Will share a few articles with you on how to deal with that.

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  5. This is such an important post Roshan. Two of my immediate family members went through terrible phases. That point no 2 is so important. Their troubles may not seem that big a deal to everyone else but they're huge to them. It's easy to try to give solutions but they don't wan't that at all.

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    Replies
    1. The mistake we make often is to try to fix things from our point of view, but we need to understand they are in an acute state of helplessness... they need a shoulder to lean on.

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  6. Yes, sometimes we are so busy that we miss all the signs... Loved your points about reaching out and giving them hope that someone cares for them. Excellent post Doc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The points are simple...we just need to be aware of it.

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  7. This is an exhaustive post and truly worth a share. I hope it reaches out to more who seek hope.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Ramya... I hope it does help someone confused about how to react

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  8. Suicidal thoughts are usually transient, so a listening ear and the right support can help in changing the outlook. I so agree with all the pointers you have shared. A small message, a kind word can make a big difference. So yes, we all must Take a Minute, Change a Life!!

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    1. It really has come down to that - have read so many instances where survivors talk of how noone had time to spend ONE MINUTE with them - yes, they survived but so many did not too.

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  9. Two of my husband's family members have gone down this path. Good advice. I can tell you, from that experience, that family members don't pick up on it necessarily. Sometimes it is up to social media friends or other professionals. Such a sad thing. Suicide impacts those who are left so heavily.

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    Replies
    1. We tend to hide it here in India... its a taboo topic for us to consider our family may be suffering from depression...

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  10. this article needs to be shred extensively as there is blue whale threat also going on...so suicides due to it can be prevented.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know what you mean.. considered linking the article to the BLUE WHALE challenge issue. Decided that needed a separate article itself.

      Delete
  11. Thanks for the info Doc- the helpline numbers is a very concise list and most helpful. Suicide is the end of the line for someone who has no hope from anywhere- thats the saddest thing one has to go through!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. i know. And we can make a difference if we only make a little more effort.

      Delete
  12. These are very helpful articles that you are sharing with everyone. I realise now that we need to educate everyone about suicide, its nature and how it may be prevented. If even one life can be saved, it'd be a job well done.

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    1. Thanks Anupriya. Yes, even if we can help one person off the ledge, we have saved a life.

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  13. These are very good and constructive suggestions, but I worry, when you say, "But you can save their life by reminding them of what they have forgotten - that they matter in this world."

    YOU CAN - maybe. You may not, and it's not your fault if you don't succeed. Better to have tried than to wonder later what more you might have done. (That kind of guilt can be crushing, and it is so unfair to make friends live with it forever. The fact is, if someone is DETERMINED to commit suicide, there's not necessarily anything anyone can say or do to stop them. We can TRY - and your post is helpful, there, especially in suggesting things to say and not say - but there is no guarantee that our BEST efforts will be successful. It's important that people realize that at the outset.) The ultimate responsibility lies with the person who acts or does not act on their suicidal thoughts. Also, some people don't realize that "suicidal thoughts" are normal and common; everyone has them. The real danger is in having a plan, along with the energy, means, and determination to carry it out. I think it's also important to tell people, if you're advising them to help a friend in need, that unless they are trained mental health professionals, the best help they can give is to get their friend to a trained mental health professional. Give them rides there, if need be. Make them tea between appointments. Listen. But don't play amateur shrink. Just be a FRIEND. Be kind. Follow the Golden Rule.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I agree to an extent. Our role is never to be a shrink.. as I said, we are not looking to solve their problems then and there. Our first goal is to get them off the ledge and towards a position where they are aware that there is something to live for.

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  14. Great article! Glad to see there are now helplines in India too :)

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    1. I had to search and compile this list. It should be far easier than this..

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  15. All I can say right now is, Thank you, Roshan.

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  16. Thank you for providing such a wide-ranging and compassionate solution. We should all take this to heart. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Avery... do save the page. It may be useful some day in the future

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  17. This is a great list. Thank you for putting it out there in the world.

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    1. Thanks man... I hope it helps someone some day

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  18. This post is need of today ....yes v need to show love n concern to such people ...write love on their arms

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  19. It's very sensitive issue. Sadly we are so tied up with our chores that we don't empathise with people going through rough patch.
    Last month I was feeling bit low and wanted some outlet and trust me I tried to reach out many friends from our so called virtual world of fb/WhatsApp and beyond formal 'hi/hello' they were busy and had no time to have a small phone call. Sad but true .

    I hope and wish people take it seriously and show some real love around.

    I have also written article for our youth who go through difficult times due to peer/parental pressure for studies - http://www.theinfopedia.com/world-suicide-prevention-day-dont-lock-children-expectations-career/

    ReplyDelete

So what do you think ?

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