“Don’t worry, he or she won’t do it otherwise they wouldn’t tell you,” is the average response I get whenever I bring this issue up. When someone tells you they feel like committing suicide or cutting themselves, your first reaction is most likely to worry. If it is the first time someone tells you this, you are most likely afraid that he or she will do it for real. If you dealt with a similar problem from another friend before, you will worry more about your friend in general and not so much about the actual act of either the suicide or the self-harm. (Do note that I’m talking about someone who has these thoughts for the first time, and, of course, there will always be exceptions.)
I wonder if it’s good to regard the issue like this. It is often true that once people tell you, they won’t actually do it. But what if they do… do it? It is hard to distinguish the real cases from the ‘not real’ ones. It can become tiresome to hear ‘the same’ problems over and over even when they are coming from different persons. Imagine someone is desperately sobbing over an ex, a situation in which you’ve been a few times before, and, therefore, are aware that it really is not as bad as this person thinks it is. However, whether someone does or does not do anything as rash as harming themselves, it still means something is wrong or else they wouldn’t tell you. If you disregard the issue and think: oh, they won’t do it anyway… he or she needs to figure it out by him/herself because I can’t help anymore… then even if it is true right now… it might not be true anymore in so many weeks or years. And once it gets worse and worse they might not tell you again next time which means it’s really serious now, isn’t it?
I’m not exactly sure how it works or what the thoughts behind the actions are. I believe that one of the reasons for any such action is that people see no other way. Firstly, this goes for suicide but secondly, perhaps people cut themselves because they know suicide is not an option. Self-harm can be a distraction. Why not use another distraction? Other distractions are not ‘powerful’ enough.
The danger of using this ‘solution’ is that you will have a hard time letting it go once you have started. I know that in the days after you’ve cut yourself, the cut will still be there and when you see or feel it, it will make you think about the moment when you did it. This will be followed by the thought of why you did it and this leads you back to thinking about the issue that you tried to get rid off in the first place. In order to make these new thoughts go away, you will have no other option but to cut yourself again. You know it works right? And so far, there is nothing else that can do the trick.
I guess though, that at some point you really can’t do anything for someone anymore. Everyone needs to live their own life and have to make their own decisions. The only thing we really should be doing is making people aware and helping them see that the options they have in mind aren’t the only options. Sometimes people simply need a little push in the right direction or someone who listens to them. It stays difficult no matter what. You need to find the right balance between helping yourself and others.