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by: Iris Ostensen

Take a moment to look inside yourself and inquire-would I know what to do if a friend or family member began talking about suicide. One of the biggest issues we face in the mental health field is the stigma associated with mental illness/wellness. So many people forget it is no different than medical illness/wellness however lacks many of the same services and does not hold the same influence of recovery as other illnesses. Be a stigma breaker!! Talk about mental health talk about suicidal thoughts and feelings. For the remainder of this month I will provide some insight/ideas on things we can do. For starters let’s just start talking to one another. 

Here are some conversation starters, courtesy of

  • Reassure them. Let them know that they are not alone; that you care and will continue to support them.
  • Encourage them to open up. Reassure them that it is ok to talk openly about how they’re feeling.
  • Listen carefully. Resist the urge to give advice or talk about your own experiences.
  • Read up. Learn about their particular disorder to better understand what they may be experiencing.
  • Stay in touch. Continuously reach out through regular phone calls, texts, Face book messages and visits to help them feel less isolated.
  • Be persistent. Invite them to dinner, movies, sporting events and other activities. Even if they refuse at first, continue to issue invitations periodically.
  • Engage them in healthy activities. Invite them to stay involved in healthy and fun activities such as hobbies or sports. Offer to go on a walk together. Event talk to them about the importance of eating right, drinking lots of water and getting sleep.
  • Talk about the future. People who are experiencing a mental illness may have feelings of hopelessness and have trouble seeing beyond their current state.
  • Be patient. Don’t push for too much too soon. Understand that they have a legitimate medical condition and that healing takes time.
  • Acknowledge improvements. Point out small signs of progress, such as saying, “It was nice to see you at the mall again last week.”
  • Don’t ignore remarks about suicide. Take immediate action if your friend or family member appears to be in crisis.


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