Saturday, September 23, 2017

What do you do when the suicide call is from someone you know?

by Vandita Morarka
This article isn’t speaking of answering such calls anonymously through a helpline or even telling you how to handle a call for help. There are some excellent resources available online on that, just remember to incorporate empathy in how you respond in such a situation and reach out for medical help and other support as soon as you can.

The calls, the messages, the signs I’m speaking of here aren’t from strangers. This is people you know, people you work with, people you once met at a friends’ cousin’s birthday party, people you love. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on the other side of a suicide call. I have. Repeatedly. I won’t tell you how to manage such a call, I just want to share what you could possibly do in the aftermath of such a call or attempt of reaching out for help to help yourself recover.

These signs can be different with different people. Commonly some of these signs may include social isolation, heightened irritability, statements that indicate some sort of parting from you, talk of death or killing oneself or of finding no more meaning in life are also indicators. None of these indicators can be standardised across persons.

Having someone you know call you or reach out in any way for help in dealing with suicidal thoughts or calling you on the brink of committing an act of suicide can be emotionally draining. How something like this affects you will differ vastly depending on the circumstances, but it will have some effect – and you need to address this effect. Don’t ignore how you feel.

In case it’s a situation where you need to provide assistance to someone in such a situation, ensure you get expert medical help and that you are there for the person too. Always take some time post such an incident(s) to gather your thoughts and give yourself time to just be and allow yourself to feel all of your feelings in that moment, don’t disregard what you have been through as well. Reach out to people around you for support, community is important and it is okay to want support. The only thing that has helped me is people being there to listen when and if I wanted to speak about such incidents.  
If find the incident has had a more lasting impact on you, please reach out to a counsellor or online communities that provide such support. Don’t hesitate in seeking help. Do not trivialise how you are feeling against the feelings of others. Your feelings are equally valid and important and if you feel like you need emotional support and care, then you do. Please know that self care isn’t selfish. Find things that help you care for yourself, maybe a night of dancing helps you or maybe lying curled up in bed with a book soothes you – do what it takes to care for yourself.

The aftermath of any such incident can be varyingly different, it is important for you to bolster strength to understand all possible ramifications and try and prepare for them.

Relationships with the person who reached out to you could go through ebbs and flows later, it isn’t your fault. It isn’t their fault either. Give the relationship time to heal. You’ve both been through a harrowing experience together that leaves your relationship at a new stage that neither of you know how to deal with. It isn’t a stage we’re taught to deal with either. But it will happen, your relationship will learn to survive. Give support, love and understanding unconditionally, to the other person, and to yourself.

Vandita Morarka is an independent policy consultant, legal researcher and gender rights facilitator. You can email her at, she tweets @vanditamorarka