Content note: this article mentions suicide
You’ve likely heard about Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and Avicii’s deaths in the news. Once again, certain media outlets have released details that are unsafe to broadcast to the general public. I’m very sorry if you’ve come across these details and they’ve made things worse for you.
Suicide hotlines provide an important service, which is why you’ll see one at the bottom of this article – but they’re not everything. Scrolling through social media to find people suggesting that everyone from their inner circle to peripheral acquaintances should call these numbers to “get help” can feel very… detached.
These services can be extremely useful in times of crisis or despair, but you are also a resource – and if your help is what’s on offer, more tangible gestures will make that help easier for the unwell people in your life to accept as a genuine invitation.
You cannot – and should not – hold yourself responsible for providing the level of help a mental health professional can. But if someone you know is struggling, there’s something you can do that a mental health professional can’t: you can show up as a friend.
Small, everyday invitations like: Do you want to have dinner at my place? Do you want to go for a walk? Do you want me to come to you? are more valuable than you might realise. If the person declines, the offer is not for naught; they'll know you were thinking of them. This is the difference between a warm exchange, and a well intentioned, but diffused one. Social media isn’t new, but we’re still trying to work out how to use it thoughtfully.
If you know someone who has died by suicide, you are not responsible. If you offered this kind of help, and feel it didn’t make a difference – it did. A freeing but sometimes sad truth about other people is that we cannot control what they do. All we can offer is genuine connection, and hope that it’s enough to hold onto. Worrying about another person's mental health can be distressing, so if you’re making yourself available to others, don’t forget to care for yourself in the process.
One last thing: help-seeking requires energy; if you’re struggling and aren’t able to seek help right now, that’s ok. Consider making an emergency plan, and do all the nurturing or soothing things you can think of in the meantime. Even if they're passive – just be as good to yourself as you can manage.
If you need to talk to someone about suicidal feelings or have lost someone to suicide, please call The Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467). For immediate help, please call 000. If living outside of Australia, please seek out services in your country.
Image credit: Stranger Things, Netflix.