What to Do If Someone Is Suicidal and Refuses Help

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What to Do If Someone Is Suicidal and Refuses Help

If you know someone is struggling emotionally or going through a rough patch, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. If you express your concerns, the outcome you hope for is that they’ll open up to you and accept your help. But what if they don’t? If you’re in this situation, here’s a guide on what to do if someone is suicidal and refuses help.


SOS: Signs of Suicide

First, let’s go over some common warnings signs that someone is suicidal:


  • They frequently talk about wanting to die or killing themselves
  • They look for ways to kill themselves
  • They talk about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • They talk about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • They consider themselves to be a burden to others
  • They begin to use or increase their use of drugs or alcohol
  • They act anxious and nervous
  • They start behaving recklessly
  • They sleep too little or too much
  • Their appetite has changed drastically
  • They’ve withdrawn or isolated themselves from others
  • They experience extreme mood swings


It can be scary to think that a person you care about would want to hurt themselves or commit suicide. This is a heartbreaking situation that can affect anyone. However, by being aware of the telltale signs someone is suicidal, you can be better prepared to be there for your loved one and help them find the care they need.


What to Do If a Suicidal Person Refuses Help

You can never force someone to do something they don’t want to do, but you can take the time to talk and listen to them to better understand how they’re feeling. Often, when it comes to mental illness and suicide, the individual is ashamed or embarrassed to open up about how they feel. Sometimes all it takes is introducing the conversation so they can feel comfortable talking about it.

With that said, below are some tips that can guide you on what to say and what to do if someone is suicidal and refuses help.


Be Direct in Conversation

The best way you can be there for a suicidal person refusing help is to talk to them and make sure they know you’re listening. With this in mind, it’s always important to be direct in conversation. Speak openly and matter-of-factly about suicide because it’s a very real thing, and you never want to sugarcoat anything.

This also validates how they’re feeling. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors don’t just come from nowhere. Mental illness, trauma, and other underlying issues are usually the root cause, so it’s important to speak about the subject of suicide like it’s real – because it is.


Don’t Act Shocked

If they do decide to speak to you about how they’re feeling, don’t act shocked. Doing so can send them two messages: one, you’re not paying attention to their behavior, and two, they should be ashamed. Neither response is a good thing.

Instead of seeming shocked, you can say something like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been acting differently, and I was worried, so that’s why I wanted to talk to you about it. I appreciate you being honest with me”. Even if you hadn’t noticed any changes in their behavior – which happens in plenty of cases – tell them you appreciate their honesty. Accept the news and move forward in the conversation so you can get to the root of the problem and potentially come up with a plan to help them.


Be a Willing Listener

Suicide is as sensitive of a subject as it gets, so it’s important to be a good listener when someone who’s suicidal is open about it. This could be the one time they’ve felt and will feel comfortable enough to talk about it, so it’s important to show them that you’re listening in both your responses and your body language.

Maintain eye contact and respond with a “yes” or an “I understand” every once in a while to show them you’re paying attention. You can also ask questions and make statements clarifying what they’re saying to show them you’re listening and also trying to understand.


Don’t Be Judgmental

Whether in conversation or lifestyle, it’s important to avoid passing judgment. Unless you’ve gone through a similar situation, it’s unlikely that you fully understand how this person is feeling. And even if you have, you could understand how disheartening it could be to be judged for feeling something as serious and often out of control as suicidality.

Additionally, if you do get the opportunity to speak to this person about how they’re feeling, don’t be judgmental. Don’t tell them what they could be doing better or how they should change their lifestyle. This can be invalidating and discourage them from being open about the subject ever again.


Don’t Make It About You

If they sum up the courage to talk to you about this, don’t make it about you. Avoid statements like, “You’re scaring me” because it makes them seem like a ticking time bomb, and it directs the conversation to how you’re feeling rather than how they’re feeling, which is the main issue. Follow the other tips we’ve mentioned about paying attention and listening instead. If they do ask for your opinion, then you can give it to them.

Become Available to Them

Whether it’s to talk over the phone or hang out, make yourself available to this person. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words, so it’s important to actively be there for your loved one. Pick a day or two of the week to hang out with them.

Go to their house to watch a movie or cook dinner for them. Take them out to eat or to the mall. Work on some DIY projects together. Even the smallest of gestures can go a long way.


Make Their Home a Safe Space

Especially if you live with this person, try to hide anything that they could easily hurt themselves with that is in the house. This includes kitchen knives, scissors, pizza cutters, bottle openers, prescription drugs, and more.


Don’t Keep It a Secret

In many cases, when someone who’s suicidal tells someone else, they make the person promise not to tell anyone. And while this is not encouragement to tweet about the conversation or tell everyone in the person’s family or friend group, considering that it’s a life or death situation, you do have to tell someone.

There are various avenues of suicide support. The most common is the suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you’re aware that the individual has an underlying mental health disorder, help them find support.

BHOPB offers various Palm Beach mental health services, including treatment for depression and anxiety, that could help your loved one understand why they’re feeling a certain way and how to recover. Feel free to check out our services and reach out to us at any time.


Seek Support

This is a heartbreaking situation for everyone involved, and that includes you. If you’re struggling with your mental health or don’t know how to emotionally manage this news, seek out support for yourself. Our facility also offers family services for the loved ones of clients and other recovery groups to help you cope. No matter what side of the conversation you’re on, you’re not alone.


Mental Health Support at BHOPB

Many people struggle to recover from suicide and mental illness alone, which is why professional support is so crucial. In addition to the existing mental health issues, there’s also a risk of substance abuse among people who are struggling with suicide. Many of this group may turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and eventually develop an addiction.


Whether you want support for a suicidal friend who doesn’t want help, or for yourself, we’re here for you. Call Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches today at 561-220-3981 for more information about our Palm Beach addiction treatment and mental health services.


Related Reading:

Clang Association: Signs and Examples

National Suicide Prevention Month

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