How Do You Respond to Someone Who May Be Suicidal or Mentally Disturbed?

Today I received an email from a woman who just seems to be… off.

She says she feels suicidal but she’s also experiencing a synchronicity involving a Gaelic word that means “sanctified.” She has not requested a reading or inquired about how to book a private session with me. She just writes “Can you help me?

Honestly, I get a very bad vibe from this message. My first thought is someone is trying to mess with me; my second thought is that maybe this is serious, but I’m not sure what I could possibly do for her.

How do you handle emails from someone who might be potentially disturbed?”

Kate, Intuitive Consultant

Less Obvious/ Less Serious Circumstances

Sometimes, a person may approach you in a way that causes “alarms” to go off and “red flags” to start waving — you may not have anything specific or obvious that you can put your finger on — it may just feel “off” or “odd.”

Ignoring your intuition is one way to learn to honor your inner guidance — the hard way.

Trust that there’s a very good reason why your intuition or your instincts are triggered.

I recently had a powerful negative emotional reaction to a comment posted on my blog — I went against my gut, approved the comment, and attempted to answer the questions of someone who definitely felt “off” to me.

Within minutes, this person was bombarding my site with a flood of additional comments — attacking me personally, calling me every name in the book… Pure hatred and socially unacceptable behavior.

This always sucks. But, honestly, it happens much less often than I might have anticipated when I started doing this kind of work.

It happens very rarely, but it does happen.

Serious Circumstances (Physical Danger, Suicide)

When someone threatens suicide, confesses to feeling suicidal, just mentions the word “suicide” or even implies it indirectly by saying things like “I’m afraid of what I’ll do” — always take any instance surrounding suicide as real and serious.

Yes, there are people who throw the word “suicide” around loosely or imply it as a means of getting attention or emotionally manipulating others — BUT ask yourself:

What is the difference between someone “just saying it” and someone who is truly in crisis?

People who claim they are considering suicide to manipulate, mess with, control, upset, or get attention from other people are not emotionally healthy, anyway. Period.

You can never know the difference with 100% certainty, beyond a shadow of a doubt; therefore, you should always assume any threat of suicide has real potential.

Gnarly Dark EnergyAll academic training programs in any type of coaching, counseling, therapy, and/or social work universally advise this approach.

As an intuitive, psychic, spiritual adviser, energy healer, alternative practitioner — whatever label you may use — you will inevitably encounter clients with clinical psycho-therapeutic issues.

What I mean by the word “clinical” is that their circumstances require licensed, professional attention. Depending on your own education, level of training and certification, you may or may not be equipped (legally or practically) to provide that degree of care.

As a spiritual intuitive, the Universe may have given you the task of delivering a critical piece of advice, at a specific time, pointing a person in the right direction toward the care she needs. It could be potentially life-saving, so don’t discount your role as “small” just because you are not the “final destination.”

Here’s how I might handle an email like the one you describe receiving:

“I’m really sorry that you’re going through such a hard time. I’m glad that you contacted me because I believe your reaching out represents a real opportunity for you to turn this situation around. Sometimes, the best way for God or our spirit guides or the Universe to assist us is by putting us in touch with real people, in the real world, who have the skills and resources to truly make a difference.

I am very concerned that you’re feeling suicidal and I want you to talk to someone who can help you better than I can…

Please call this number ______.”

  1. Without contributing to the drama of the situation, simply be compassionate and acknowledge that she’s having a difficult time.
  2. Commend her for reaching out to you (to anyone).
  3. Let her know you want to be sure she receives the assistance she needs, and you cannot offer that (this may be due to geographical distance, the limitations of email, or your degree of training — be honest and say so).
  4. What you can do is encourage her that it’s time to seek out another source of assistance, and direct her to contact a clinical psychotherapist, or a social worker, or a women’s shelter in her area, depending on her situation.

It helps to have a few national hotlines, web links, or other resources handy for specific circumstances — suicide, drug/alcohol abuse, domestic violence, pregnancy.

You can always do a quick web search before responding, but do that search for someone — put her at least one step closer to contacting the assistance she needs.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1-800-273-8255

(United States)

I’d love to hear your own advice to Kate — for all of us who do this kind of work.

How do you handle it when you’re approached or contacted by someone “outside the comfortable norm” of your average client profile?

Slade's signature

image credit Kevin Dooley via Creative Commons on Flickr

4 Responses to How Do You Respond to Someone Who May Be Suicidal or Mentally Disturbed?
  1. Lindsay | The Daily Awe
    September 7, 2011 | 3:11 pm

    This is something I faced a few months ago. A person I’d done a reading for a couple of months prior emailed me and told me she was feeling suicidal. I responded right away and gave her the suicide hotline, suicide resources/help in her area, even. I intuitively knew she wasn’t just yanking my chain. She responded & thanked me and asked me to check in on her in a couple of days. But she didn’t say she was going to seek help.

    I have emailed her several times since then and have no idea as to whether or not she is still alive, she has never responded. I have no way of getting in touch with her beyond email. I’d only done an email reading for her. I decided that I couldn’t let worry about her plague me — I’d done what I could and give her as much information/contacts for her to get the help she needed.

    So I do hope she got the professional help she needed. I feel I did the right thing – I did what I could and didn’t let it plague me beyond that. I trust that the Universe sent her to me so she would know that someone – even someone from a distance – cares enough to help her get help.

    Anyway, you’re right when you say this sort of thing isn’t common. But it does happen. Trusting in your intuition is critical in times like this, but it’s also important not to get too wrapped up in the person’s woes.

    • Slade Roberson
      September 7, 2011 | 3:16 pm

      Lindsay,

      Thanks for sharing an example of how you personally handled this situation. I belief you did exactly what you could — you’re right, just knowing someone out there cares enough to listen and respond can make a difference.

      Sometimes, a lot of time may go by before you hear back from a client… I do hope you’ll get an update from her. But, you’re wise to let it go for now and not be attached to any expectation.

  2. Angie
    September 8, 2011 | 12:05 am

    Hi Slade
    Without sounding condescending, that is the PERFECT response to this situation. As a health professional (who straddles both the clinical and the ‘woo-woo’ (lol)) most days myself and my colleagues work with suicidal people. This must be dealt with from a clinical perspective, and usually with the help of a team. I highly recommend all practitioners to have national numbers as well as local numbers for people in this sort of crisis.
    I also totally agree with your points; always take suicidal talk as real, validate the person’s pain, and point them in the direction of appropriate help.
    This is why your website and blog is the BEST.
    :)

  3. Kara
    September 8, 2011 | 3:55 pm

    Slade,

    Thank you for this highly practical post. It is a great example of practical real world assistance, that is required from intuitive practitioners. While doing the woo is essential to quality of life, so are very basic physical actions to help other humans in suffering hold on to life.

    :) Kara

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