“I’m going to kill myself.”
What do you do if someone tells you he or she is going to kill themselves?
I didn’t know how to answer that question until I listened to a presentation by Tom Ellis, PsyD, ABPP, director of Psychology at The Menninger Clinic.
I learned that first, you must remember that people thinking about taking their own lives are not thinking clearly. They’re trying to find a solution for devastating, painful, overwhelming problems, and they believe, because their brain is not physically functioning, that suicide is the answer. They have tunnel vision; they’re suffering so badly it physically hurts them; and they have zero hope. Their brain is not functioning just as people’s hearts, kidneys, knees and sciatic nerves do not function, which is why it’s ridiculous to make people feel ashamed because they have a mental health issue. Bully for Pastor Rick Warren for pointing out that lapse in logic after his son, Matthew, took his life.
Second, be honored that the person in front of you talking about suicide trusts you.
From Dr. Ellis, I learned to say to them,
I’m listening. I’m here. I care about you. I’m scared. Let’s get some help.
I would add: “I’ll help you find a therapist.”
And: “I’ll drive and wait with you. I won’t leave you.”
I’d also add:
If you don’t like the first therapist, we’ll find one you do like. There are other solutions to your pain, and the therapist you like will help you find them. I will NOT be better off if you die. I will be worse off, and it will sadden me for the rest of my life.
Dr. Ellis said to take all suicide communication seriously. He also said it’s an act of courage for a therapist and patient to talk about suicide.
Life-saving therapists say things like, “Let’s talk about ways of keeping you safe without going to the hospital.” “Tell me about the pain that makes you want to die and what makes you want to live.”
I hope I never have to use Dr. Ellis’ wisdom, but now, at least, I feel somewhat prepared.
Does anyone reading this post know of any religion that sanctifies, encourages or in any way endorses taking one’s life?