Mike, thank you for your question. Suicide is an important issue that affects many of us.
From an Auntie’s eye view, one of the most important things is to show your relative that you care. If you feel comfortable, talk to them in private about the signs of suicide you have seen: Have they been writing messages that worry you on Facebook? Have they been isolating themselves from you and your family? Are they depressed?
At some point in your conversation ask about suicide directly. You can say something like, “Sometimes when people are feeling really down they think about killing themselves. Are you thinking of killing yourself?” I know it seems super direct (and maybe a little uncomfortable), but this is an important question to ask. Listen to them, and try to be as non-judgmental as possible, even if their reasons for feeling this way don’t make sense to you.
If your relative is struggling, ask them if they would be willing to see a healthcare professional (like a counselor, psychologist, doctor, or nurse) continue talking. You can even help them make the appointment and go with them if they need your support. Sometimes people who are depressed and who are considering suicide have difficulty motivating themselves to get the help they need. If your relative is not ready, be sure that they agree to talk with at least one trusted adult. And please do not swear to secrecy ever. When someone has suicidal thoughts it is an emergency, and it is probably a situation you don’t want to handle alone. You are going to need backup.
If you don’t feel comfortable talking with your relative about their thoughts of suicide, don’t sweep it under the rug. Get in touch with a trusted adult (like a teacher, school counselor, psychologist) or health professional (like a doctor or a nurse). Ask that person to talk directly to your relative in a private place without judgment.
You can even call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 and talk with a trained volunteer about how to bring the topic up with your relative or how to help them get connected with a trusted adult or health professional. Also, it’s probably a good idea to look up your local suicide prevention resources so you can be a resource to your relative, if and when it is needed.
Good luck Mike.
Auntie is thinking about you and your relative.