When I was actually suicidal, what kept me from going through with it was:

1) Although my plan had three separate ways by which it could kill me, it was possible that all would fail, such that I would wind up still in all the pain that was driving me to kill myself, plus on life support machines and with people hovering over me annoying me.

2) I would actually have to get up and do it, which was effort.

When I told people about the plan in #1, though, it was because I wanted them to listen to me. I was back off the brink for some reaon, and I wanted to talk about where I'd been. Somebody who tells you they're suicidal isn't asking you to talk him out of it; he's asking you to listen. Which is why the advice you were taught works. Someone who listens is a precious gift, there, where you can still feel the pull of suicide, even someone you suspect is listening just because they're socialized/paid to do it.

On the other hand, when you're out feeling the pull, you've had lots of (people you perceive as) idiots, giving you (seemingly) bad advice and (seemingly) pointless arguments. I, at least, didn't want to hear yet another theory as to why suicide was a bad idea; frustration at such yammerers made suicide look like a better idea the longer they talked.

The advice you were given back in high school was distilled professional expertise. Evaluate carefully before you dismiss it.

1) Although my plan had three separate ways by which it could kill me, it was possible that all would fail, such that I would >wind up still in all the pain that was driving me to kill myself, plus on life support machines and with people hovering over >me annoying me

Been there... and have indeed talked about these problems with a friend who once said she was contemplating suicide. But i wouldn' t recommend this to all. I mean for most people the listening and trying to help them in their interest area can help better.

8antigonus8yJust wanted to say that I relate very strongly to this. When I was heavily mentally ill and suicidal, I was afraid of reaching out to other people precisely because that might mean I only wanted emotional support rather than being serious about killing myself. People who really wanted to end their lives, I reasoned, would avoid deliberately setting off alarm bells in others that might lead to interference. That I eventually chose to open up about my psychological condition at all (and thereby deviate from the "paradigmatic" rational suicidal person) gave me evidence that I didn't want to kill myself and helped me come to terms with recovering. Sorry if this is rambling.
1wedrifid8yAnd when you pay them to do it they become a 'valuable commodity'.

How would you talk a stranger off the ledge?

by MoreOn 1 min read23rd Jan 201297 comments

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Last month, two people far at the periphery of my social circles have threatened suicide. Seems like a sign for me to learn some ledge-fu.

I reviewed the stuff I'd learned back in high school ("Listen." "Be supportive." "Don't argue." "Etc etc etc.") I have trouble believing that this would work outside of movieland, especially on strangers. More so, in person I'm an awkward, fidgeting introvert---the impact of everything I say is thus diminished, and I sound very insincere or clinical, like I'm following a bad movie script, when I say anything like, "You are not alone in this. I’m here for you." or "How can I best support you right now?" I doubt that this would sound any better in writing.

I suppose I could split my question into two related ones: what would you say to a person threatening to commit suicide, 1. in person, and 2. in an email?

I'm looking for out-of-the-box ideas that don't rely on charisma or compassion shining through. Personally, if I ever need to talk myself out of suicidal thoughts, I apply the "bum comparison principle": if my life is so crummy that I'm willing to commit suicide, then I should be willing to just walk out on everything I value and drift off in a random direction, survive by dine-and-dashing out of cheap restaurants and wash dishes if I get caught, maybe take odd jobs or hitchhike or gather roots and berries or blog from public libraries. I don't see this possibility in a negative light, and yet I still haven't done it. To me, it means that however bad my life may seem, I'm still too attached to it to walk out; therefore, suicide isn't on the menu.

People have different reasons to want suicide, and I understand that what works for me with my first world problems probably won't work for a person who is in too much physical pain from an incurable disease. To the best of my knowledge, the two people I mentioned earlier are both unskilled laborers who had lost their jobs, one of them so long ago that he's no longer eligible for unemployment benefits. I don't think I'll meet these particular people again, but I'd appreciate everyone's thoughts on what I could've said if my brain hadn't frozen.

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