Not what you wanted to hear? Too bad. It's the truth. You can't save someone determined to end their own life. You can't shield them from a weapon of choice nor the opportunity to take action.
That's the reality of the situation. But, not being able to save someone is not the same as not being able to do anything to help.
There are things you can do.
Okay, so maybe you can't prevent a determined person from taking their own life. And that sucks. But you CAN intervene in such a way that you reduce the likelihood the person feels completely abandoned and alone. You can be the reason someone decides to stick around.
It starts with making sure the other person knows you are there for them. There's no reason to be coy or subtle here. Try, "Jane, I know you're hurting, and I want you to know that I am right here when you are ready to talk about what is happening."
Now that you have their attention, try listening to the person in pain. Maybe they want to talk about what is happening with them. Maybe they want to talk about anything but. Either way is fine. Just make sure that the other person understands that they have an ally when they are truly in need.
Rally The Troops
Being a rock for another person can take its own toll. It's tough to be on call 24/7, never knowing what news might be on the other end of your ringing phone. And no matter how much you want to help another person, you have your own life and responsibilities to handle. It can quickly feel like you yourself are drowning in worry and anguish.
That's why you rally the troops early on. If you know someone is in trouble, reach out to their friends and establish a network of support. Again, no need to be subtle here. "Hey guys, I've noticed that Robert is really going through a tough time and I'm worried about him. I need some help supporting him right now."
There's no need to hide what you are doing from the friend in trouble. "Jane, a few of us know that you are dealing with a lot right now and we are here to help. Tom wants to drop round tomorrow and bring you some lunch, if that's alright." The whole point here is to make sure that Jane knows she isn't alone, that other people care about her, and that people will do whatever they can to help make her days a little less painful.
Remember, your friend still deserves respect and privacy. They also need to know that they are in charge of what happens in their life. So don't talk around them and don't try to out-maneuver them. You are not saving them, you are helping them see for themselves that they matter and that life is worth living.
It's a fine line to walk, I know. On one hand, you want to fix things. On the other hand, you have to leave someone to sort out their own situation. So find a compromise. Give them space but make sure they know they are not alone.
So Now What?
All of this is fine, but what about real life scenarios? What can a person really do to help someone else?
I start with this. It's my Cover Photo on Facebook.
And I mean it. If someone reaches out to me, I reach back. I make sure they know that someone is available to talk... and more importantly... to listen. I try to put them in touch with professionals or organizations that are better able to assist. And I tell them over and over again that we need them here in our lives and that they still have so much to offer this world.
Life is messy. Sometimes, people want to check out. And you can't save them if they are determined to go. What we can do is help them see the good in this world - friendly faces, strong shoulders, and safe embraces.
And hopefully, that will be enough to help someone see the world in a little brighter light.