Ways to Offer Support
Enlist support of their mental health treatment team. Have contact numbers to the psychiatrist and therapist available. Ensure that the treatment team is aware that you've noticed an increase in warning signs or symptoms.
Make a check-in plan. Determine how frequently you will check-in with your loved one, how you will contact them (in person, by phone) and at what time of the day they should expect this communication. Stick to the agreement. Structure can help your loved one feel safe, and knowledge that support is on the way can help your loved one fee connected. When you follow through with your agreement, you show your loved one that you are dependable and that you care.
Help them develop their safety plan on paper or the My3 app on a smartphone. Keep a copy of your loved one's suicide safety plan nearby. Familiarize yourself with your loved one's unique signs and symptoms. Have a plan of who they will call for help.
Remind them that help is available, and that you are there to support them.
- deep breathing, imagery, prayer, meditation
- walking, swimming, hiking, jogging
- reading, crafting, journaling, listening to music, cooking, or gardening
Engage the senses
- aromatherapy, take a warm shower or bath, squeeze a stress ball
- Spend time with family, friends, or pets. Connectedness is a protective factor against suicide.
- Regular sleep is an important part of recovery. Have a regular bedtime and wake time and stick to it. Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes. Avoid caffeine after noon.
Follow up and self-care
- Take medications as directed.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs (other than those that your doctor has prescribed).
What to Say and What Not to Say
What to say: "I hear you when you say you want to die, that you feel this will never get better."
What not to say: "Why would you want to throw your life away?"
What to say: "I can imagine how terrible that feels."
What not to say: "I've been through hard times and I'd never think about hurting myself."
What to say: "Was there ever a time you didn't feel this bad? I believe you will feel that way again."
What not to say: "You'll get over it." or "This is just a phase." or "You're being dramatic."
What to say: “I'm going to be here to help you. You are not alone."
What not to say: "Why would you do this to our family?”
- Be sure you are taking care of yourself.
- Consider speaking to a professional mental health provider.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness:
- www.nami.org offers family to family education and support groups. These groups focus on the effect mental illness has on the family unit. They are designed to support the family members of someone living with a mental illness.