‘Don’t judge your loved one’ – 7 ways to support a suicidal partner

Article compiled by Bonolo Sekudu and first published on News24 on the 3rd of May 2023.
Photo: Getty Images

  • When in a relationship with someone with mental health issues, you might need to learn ways to support them.
  • Dating and relationship coach Leigh-Joy Mansel-Pleydell offers 7 ways to deal with this.
  • She admits that listening and holding space for someone who is suicidal is tricky.

When in a relationship with someone with mental health issues, you might need to learn ways to support them.  It can be scary to deal with a partner who is suicidal, especially when you don’t know their triggers or what to do during a depressive season.

Dating and relationship coach Leigh-Joy Mansel-Pleydell says when someone we love feels suicidal, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed with fear for them, your relationship, and what it means going forward.

“Listening and holding space for someone who is suicidal is tough and tricky. Often loved ones struggle to separate their own feelings of fear from that of the person with suicidal thoughts and feelings. For this reason, it is a very good idea to encourage someone with suicidal thoughts to seek professional support and guidance,” she says.

Leigh-Joy says there is a big difference between suicidal ideation and suicidal planning. Ideation is prevalent among many people – and is simply a fleeting series of moments of overwhelm.

7 things to do when your partner is suicidal:

  1. Seek professional support for you and your suicidal loved one. This does not isolate the loved one struggling. However, it offers them a safe space to share exactly how they are feeling and be guided by someone skilled and trained in this field.
  2. Do not isolate your loved one. Seek friends and family members who are loving, kind, and understanding to take them out for a walk or coffee – just something that takes them out of their normal environment.
  3. Explain to your kids that your partner is struggling and that together we will get through this. Kids are not stupid. They can feel changes in energy and mood in a home. You don’t necessarily have to tell them their mom or dad is suicidal but that they are having a tough time making sense of some thoughts and feelings. This gives children permission to tackle their own big feelings. Seeing how you, as the parents, got through them gives them the courage and wisdom to get through their own. We teach most by what we do rather than what we say.
  4. Don’t judge your loved one. They are struggling with life questions that they can’t feel and think through currently.
  5. If you are feeling overwhelmed with fear and anxiety because of your loved one’s suicidal feelings, it is best for you to get the support, self-care, and love you need elsewhere for now.
  6. Join a support group – contact SADAG for groups in your area.
  7. Accept that your loved one’s life is their gift and that, ultimately, they get to choose what they want to do with it. It’s their soul’s journey.

“People who have felt suicidal will often say what a huge relief it was to be able to talk about what they were experiencing.

“If someone does let you know they are having suicidal thoughts, always take them seriously. It’s also important to know when to seek professional support and when to step back to look after yourself,” Leigh-Joy says.

If you or anyone you know needs support in dealing with a difficult domestic situation, contact the helplines below:

Gender-based violence Command Centre: “Please call me” facility: *120*7867# Emergency line: 0800 428 428 

POWA helpline: 011 642 4345 

SADAG has a WhatsApp counselling line that operates from 9am to 4pm: 076 882 2775 

To speak to a SADAG counsellor: 0800 567 567

Tears Foundation helpline: *134*7355# 

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