When your partner is so depressed that they seem like they want to kill themselves, it can be a terrifying experience. You might feel overwhelmed, wondering what you can do, and in a state of heightened anxiety.
Your concerns are entirely understandable. Relationships are complex enough, but being involved with someone who may be suicidal demands an extra dose of compassion and awareness.
In this article, you will learn what to do when your partner is suicidal to protect their mental health and your own.
First, be aware.
Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of suicide. These include:
- Talking about wanting to die.
- Looking for a way to die (e.g., researching how to purchase a firearm).
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
- Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
- Talking about being a burden to others.
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
- Acting anxious or agitated.
- Behaving recklessly.
- Sleeping too little or too much.
- Withdrawing or isolating.
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
- Extreme mood swings.
If your partner is exhibiting any of these signs, take this seriously. Reach out to a mental health professional or call a suicide crisis hotline (some listed at the end of this article).
If you notice behaviors that indicate suicidal thoughts in your partner but are unsure, ask them about it. Talking about it will also reduce your partner’s concerns about stigma.
Research shows that people with suicidal thoughts find relief when asked about these thoughts in a caring way. So even though it might feel uncomfortable, gently confront your partner about their thoughts and behaviors and let them know that you are willing and want to help.
Need help starting the conversation? Try saying this:
- “You haven’t seemed like yourself lately. Is there something going on?”
- “I know you, and something is going on. Let’s talk about it.”
- “Your stress level is off the charts. What’s going on? I want to help.”
- “I’m worried about you. Are you okay?”
Follow up with direct questions, such as:
- “Have you had thoughts of suicide?”
- “Do you ever feel so bad that you think about suicide?”
- “Do you have a plan to kill yourself or take your life?”
- “Have you thought about when you would do it (today, tomorrow, next week)?”
- “Have you thought about what method you would use?”
Don’t be afraid to discuss suicide with your partner. Talking about suicide does not put the idea in their head.
Often there is nothing you can do to fix a situation except to be present and listen without judgment.
Studies show that those at risk of suicide feel more hopeful and less overwhelmed when they can talk about their feelings in a safe space.
Always take what your partner is saying seriously and avoid the following:
- Minimizing their problems or shaming them into changing their mind.
- Sharing your opinion.
- Trying to convince the person that whatever they are unhappy about it’s not that bad.
- Convincing a person they have everything to live for (this may increase their feelings of guilt and hopelessness).
- Arguing with or challenging the person.
- Preaching or prophesying.
- Making promises (like keeping suicide a secret).
Respond with kindness by reassuring them, such as:
- ”You are not alone. I’m here for you."
- "I may not understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.”
- “We will get through this together.”
The following are ways that you can help protect your partner when they are at their most vulnerable.
- Seek clinical care for mental, physical, and substance use disorders. A therapist can help your partner make sense of their thoughts and help build their coping skills. If in-person therapy is not an option, consider telephone or e-counseling.
- Remove any objects or substances from your home that your partner could use to hurt themselves.
- Have your partner stay with a close friend or family member when you cannot be around.
- Strengthen connections to family and community support.
- Try to engage your partner with activities they enjoy, such as journaling, visiting with friends, cuddling with animals, or going for walks.
It can be difficult for those with depression to reach out to loved ones. Still, the best way to combat loneliness and despair is by being surrounded by a loving community.
If your partner does not have the motivation or energy to initiate social interactions, encourage their friends and family to reach out to them instead. Even a short phone call or text can make a difference.
Sixth, be patient.
Don’t assume you know what’s going on in your partner’s mind. Follow up with them regularly to see what they need and how you can help.
Your partner’s mental health will not improve overnight, so be patient and give them grace.
Finally, while it’s essential to be supportive of your partner in crisis, don’t forget to look after yourself.
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Sometimes, no matter how much you love someone, their suicidal thoughts persist, and either they or you need to reach out for some professional support. This could be in the form of a GP, Mental Health Team, or a helpline, as we list examples of here.
If your partner expresses suicidal thoughts or attempts to harm themselves, take them to a psychiatric hospital or an emergency room. Many mental health organizations also recommend calling 988 if an individual is suicidal.
- Lifeline (USA): 1-800-273-TALK (8255) suicidepreventionlifeline.org (Military Vets press 1, Spanish speakers press 2)
- Trevor Project-LGBT Youth (USA): 1-866-4-U-Trevor
- Crisis Text Line: Text "SAVE" to 741-741
- 24/7 Samaritans Hotline(UK): 116 123 samaritans.org
- Befrienders Worldwide-Search for helplines worldwide: befrienders.org
- IASP Crisis Centers https://www.iasp.info/crisis-centres-helplines
Remble offers a variety of therapeutic self-care practices, including:
- Breathwork techniques
- Daily video tips (Daily Remble)
- Relationship courses