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Helping Someone Online
"I am done. I'm taking all my pills tonight."
"No one will even notice I'm gone."
"Suicide is my only option."If you've ever seen someone post comments like these, it can be scary. You might feel helpless. You don't know how to help them because you don't really know -- who they are -- what their real name is -- where they live. You simply can't identify them.
Believe, listen, and encourage, but know that you are not responsible for any suicidal actions they take. The following ideas can guide you with what to say/not say to an online suicidal person and how to contact some of the most widely used online sites so that they can provide support too!
- Believe and Acknowledge
If someone tells you they are having thoughts of ending their life, believe them. Don't say, "You could never do that." They might just say back, "You're right," and never bring up the subject again. But…deep down those feelings are still trapped inside of them and they might think no one believes what they said. Let them know you believe them, and that you are worried about them.
- Listen and Validate
Some people who have suicidal thoughts feel that they don't have the support and that no one is listening. So really listen. It hurts when you feel like no one listens to you. Let the person know they are being heard. Let them vent. Don't interrupt them. In person, your body language can help you to express understanding or genuine concern. Online, all you have is your written word. Statements like, "I understand," or "I'm listening" can give them validation of their feelings.
- Encourage and Inform
A suicidal person needs to know that there is hope. Encourage them to reach out for help. Sometimes people feel safer communicating through a digital device than communicating face to face. They will say they want to end their life online, but they won't tell their school counselor, parent, or best friend. Tell the person that it takes strength to reach out and get help from someone they trust.
The three steps above can be followed to help someone in need, but you may also need to consider contacting OK2SAY or the website's help or safety link to alert them of the suicidal user.
Just remember, you cannot fix the person. You also cannot control what he or she does going forward, but you might be the first person who believed, listened, and encouraged. You did the right thing!
Content provided by the Boys Town National Hotline. More in-depth information on this topic can be found at yourlifeyourvoice.org.