RELATIONSHIP TIPS: How to save your suicidal spouse

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By SIMON MBURU
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Last week, we looked at some of the tell-tale signs that say a troubled spouse is seriously contemplating  suicide. Today, we discuss how you can help them get out of that space without tipping them over.

Swinging between life and death: According to Lisa Firestone, the author of Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice and a researcher on suicide cases, suicidal thoughts and symptoms fluctuate over time, making it necessary for suicidal methods to be as unavailable as possible.

“Making common means of suicide harder to access could provide the suicidal person time and space necessary to awaken from the trance of the anti-self and (get) help,” she says. According to the journal Suicide Awareness Voices, even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and will tend to waver between wanting to live and wanting to die.

“The impulse to end their life, however overpowering, does not last always [because] most suicidal people don’t want death; they want the pain to stop.”

Past interests: You must connect with the part of your spouse that wants to live rather than the one that wants to die. “When they open up to you, look at any behaviour or activities that made them feel better in the past and encourage them to engage in them,” says Firestone. Do not fear that talking about death in a mature manner will enhance a suicidal person’s thoughts. “Bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do,” points out Suicide Awareness Voices.

Interrogate: Psychologist Patrick Musau says, “Do not subject your suicidal spouse to interrogation to establish the root cause of their problems. Do not be judgmental or panicky,” he adds. Remember, your spouse already thinks he is bad, defective, undeserving of life or love or hope or compassion and does not need to be made to feel worse.

“Instead, reassure them that you will allow them to open up in their own pace and tell you what is bugging them in their own way,” observes Stacey Fredenthal, a psychotherapist and author of Speaking of Suicide.

Tell them they are selfish: The last thing a person who is suicidal wants to hear is how selfish they are. According to Musau, they will feel condemned and ashamed, making the problem worse.

Compare: Comparing them with ‘other people who also have problems but are not killing themselves’ does not help. “They will compare themselves with others and come up wanting, defective or broken,” Frendethal says.

Guilt-trip them: According to Fredenthal, the suicidal spouse is already aware that their action will end up hurting those he leaves behind, especially his spouse and children. “Do not go for this sort of reaction when trying to help them or get them to open up on why they are suicidal. They have been feeling awful about their intention,” she says.


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