“I feel like hurting myself” – When Death Becomes You

How to Talk Someone Out of It

If you are having suicidal or other self-destructive thoughts or impulses, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or call them at: 800-273-8255.

Potential and fantasy script for talking someone down from suicidal thoughts (towards the end of a longer conversation, where other person kept saying, “Yes, but”):

Them: I feel like hurting myself.

You: What happened and just keep talking.

Them: What?

You: Yes, tell me what happened and just keep talking, because feeling like hurting yourself means you’re close to doing it, but you reached out to me because a part of you doesn’t want to. Is any of that true?

Them: Uh, err, I guess so.

You: So tell me what happened that caused you to feel like hurting yourself?

Them: (they go on to tell you about something that upset them, hurt them, frightened them and/or made them feel like they couldn’t go on anymore)

You: (after they finish speaking) Now, tell me more.

Them: Huh?

You: There’s always something more than what people tell me, so tell me more.

Them: (they tell you more)

You: You know, I can completely understand and even feel how painful and awful that feels, but there was a time when you didn’t feel that way. When was the last time you didn’t feel that way? And by the way, I’m also going to say something that you can’t believe right now and I don’t expect you to believe right now, and that is that you won’t always feel this way.

Them: You’re right about that, I can’t believe I won’t stop feeling this way.

You: And I understand that too because I have even felt that way and when I did, nobody could convince me that my awful feelings would go away. So, c’mon tell me about the last time you didn’t feel this way and if you can remember the last time you felt pretty good about life or even just okay.

Them: I don’t want to tell you.

You: Dang, that’s exactly what I said to people when I was feeling awful, that I didn’t want to talk to them either. C’mon, I know it’s difficult, but just give it a try.

Them: (they begin to talk about a time when they felt okay)

You: Dang, again. I wish I could have told people who were trying to help me some of the kind of things you just told me. I don’t know why I fought doing it. You have any idea why you didn’t want to tell me?

Them: Huh? And could you stop the “dangs?”

You: Yeah, I just heard you talk about positive things even though you didn’t want to and when I felt the same way you’re feeling, I couldn’t do that. What was holding you back? And I promise, no more dangs.

Them: I dunno. Maybe I thought it wouldn’t do any good.

You: Wow, I just figured it out. Thank you.

Them: What?

You: I just figured out why I didn’t want to talk about anything positive. I don’t know if you’ll be able to relate to this. I think I didn’t want to talk about it, because in addition to feeling really down and hopeless, I felt angry. And I mean really angry. Angry at the world, angry at life, angry at me and the last thing I wanted to do was cooperate with anyone, even if they were trying to help me.

Them: Hmm, I can kind of relate to that. So why did you not want to talk or cooperate?

You: I never thought of this before, because I wanted to frustrate them.  I don’t know if you’ll understand this. I don’t think it was to punish them, I just wanted them to feel frustrated and angry too, because I just felt alone in it and feeling alone in it, made it worse. I think the more calm and rational they acted, the more frustrated I felt, because what I really wanted wasn’t advice. As I said, what I wanted was just to not feel so alone in it. Does that sound crazy?

Them: No, in fact I think you’re making too much sense.

You: Why too much sense?

Them: Because when I called I was superficially going to resist being helped and that’s why I “yes, butted,” most of what you said when we started talking (before this part of the conversation).

You: Why do you think you did that?

Them: Because I wanted to frustrate you.

You: Why?

Them: Because like you said, I didn’t want to feel those feelings alone.

You: Is this conversation going okay especially if you didn’t get to frustrate me too much.

Them: You know, I think it is.

You: I just had another wacky thought, can I share it with you?

Them: Okay (a little lighter in tone), go on.

You: I don’t think you really wanted to hurt yourself. I think you wanted to make the hurt in you go away and nothing was doing that and I don’t want to push my luck, but it feels like our talking like this might have helped the hurt go away even just a tiny bit.

Them: Okay, yes it helped.

You: Whew, thank you. Look we just had a conversation that somehow helped you feel a little better, I’d like you to do me a favor. I’d like to find and refer you to a resource where you can do more of this and when I do, I have another favor.

Them: Okay, what now?

You: If the first person or group or resource I refer you to doesn’t feel like a fit I want you to not quit until you and maybe we find someone or something that is a fit. Can I count on you for that?

Them: Okay, one last thing.

You: What’s that?

Them: Thank you, sorry for trying to frustrate you at first.

You: My pleasure, hey it takes one frustrater to know one. You’re going to make it through this, but you don’t have to believe me now.


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2 thoughts on ““I feel like hurting myself” – When Death Becomes You”

  1. Mark says:

    Thank you Addison!

  2. Thanks Dr. Goulston as always. I will share with the tethr app members!